Magic, Cabaret… and All That Jazz

Master of magic, illusions, and jazz, Jonathan Sky dazzles onstage in his current show, “Rhapsody,” at the 2017 Hollywood Fringe Festival.  Billed as “50 minutes of musical magic,” this show has all the elements to wow the crowd, including 12 magical vignettes involving card tricks; invisible spheres and a myriad of ‘out of the box’ delights.

All in attendance were in awe of Sky’s extraordinary sleight of hand, with audience interaction an intrinsic part of the show.  His mesmerized audience anticipated each trick with bated breath,  wondering the hidden secret that was never fully revealed. His opening act, the New Orleans poker gambler, was a standout,  revealing his wizard genius skills on the trumpet.   It is easy to see how Jonathan Sky can easily join the ranks of illusionist masterminds, the likes of Houdini. This one man show not  only provides mystifying magic, soothing music, but also a theatrical flair of the unexpected, just what we so need right now.

http://www.hollywoodfringe.org

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Breathe Deep…and give praise…to “Trixie: The Musical

“Trixie: The Musical” pays homage to the art of psychotherapy in its many creative forms, from cognitive behavioral therapy, expressive art therapy; to motivational interviewing and empathic reflective validation.  Under Elizabeth DelloRusso’s superb direction, ensemble members, Emily Decker (Trixie); Elizabeth DellaRusso (Lily); Sean Benedict (Bradley); Kate Bowman (Jackie); Adam Lau (Paul); Samantha Lawrence (Lydia); and Christopher Robert Smith (Mark), give a stellar performance.  The exchanges between each ticking time bomb and their trusty therapist will keep the audience engaged throughout the show, with a subtle, satiric look at the industry of self help and psychotherapy.  Each character hopes to resolve his/her personal issues, some deeply rooted from childhood, and in turn help heal therapist Trixie at the same time. The play is quite intense and profound in one, as ‘depression’ and ‘anxiety’ come to life onstage, taking anthropomorphic forms as they dance around Trixie.  It is an exploration of the human spirit, with all its temptations and addictions, and the journey of the common man/woman driven to the edge.  The show’s hook right from the start is a slide image of a soothing blue ocean wave, with a voiceover encouraging us to ‘meditate, breathe deep.’  Musical interludes ensue, with musical numbers and catchy tunes, having the audience hum along in no time. When Trixie  finally embraces her  full, true self, she becomes the beloved therapist and authentic person she’s been all along.

for more information

facebook.com/trixiethemusical

The Complex Theatre

June 10 @ 7:30 pm.  June 16 @ 8:30 pm

June 17 @ 1:30 pm. June 24 @ 10pm

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Barbara Minkus: Her ’15 Minutes’ and Much Much More

Barbara Minkus is a senior in her glory days acts and looks more like a junior.  In a most animated one woman show, directed by Susan Morgenstern, Barbara delights her audience at the Santa Monica Playhouse. Now in her prime, golden years, Barbara shares a musical journey of her full life that certainly many would admire and envy.  In “The Road Not Taken,” Robert Frost writes “Two roads diverged…I could not travel both.”  Yet Barbara Minkus manages to defy the odds, as it were, and take on two distinct roads, and many faceted characters in her fabulous performance.

She is the woman in this one woman show “I’m Not Famous,” and when she’s not speaking profound words of wisdom she’s either singing or dancing to communicate the incredible nature of her amazing life’s journey.
She started off as a frumpy girl on Chicago’s north side , frequently ridiculed as a ‘chubby scrappy nobody.’  But those harsh words and mean girls did not deter her from her dream to make it big as an actress or comedienne In show biz and in the end she managed to fulfill this dream among many other ones.
Her motto was constantly “run, don’t walk,”and run she did as a true go getter.
Resembling Bette midler in her youth she tried her hand at opera arias, yet was laughed at and encouraged to pursue the great white way on Broadway.  She began her career in show business in NYC in Julius Monk’s Bits and Pieces, continuing on as the original Lucy in the recording of “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown.”
A lucky break was being discovered by Merv Griffin and obtaining an agent in Hollywood (Howard West) and through persistence and drive, she landed a coveted role as Fanny  Brice In Funny Girl  and as luck would have it … she’s been passionate about theatre ever since.
Her career took a curveball as it were and ended up in Hollywood , with cameo comedic bits in sitcoms like Love American Style and the Danny Kaye Show . Along the way she found true love on a blind date and built a happy life and family.
Most people would be happy enough with such accomplishments but she also fulfilled an ‘alter ego ‘ role as a therapist, a main revelation in her solo show. She relives how she studied acting by day and psychology by night.
And never the two would meet until graduation day when she belted “People  who
Help people are the luckiest people in The world,” ala Barbra Streisand.
A memorable number, quite a standout in this show was Barbara’s rendition of Sinatra’s “That’s Life.”
Barbara Minkus has had more than 15 minutes of fame but rather a whole life of success and accomplishment
Her memoir onstage is s true tribute to her creativity and originality .

through July 22

Saturdays 7pm; Sundays 3pm

Santa Monica Playhouse 1211 4th St

310 3949779

http://www.santamonicaplayhouse.com

http://www.barbaraminkus.com

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Write Act Repertory makes no wrong turns…in “Freeway Dreams”

“Freeway Dreams ” marks the reentry of the Write Act Repertory from New York to Los Angeles and appropriately pays homage to the city’s complex freeways, and frustrations thereof.  It validates the amazing quality and value of this company’s productions that is a signature of their reputation and history . While originally  based in Hollywood in a small church on Yucca St, I as a reviewer held their company as the best LA small theatre offers .

This particular show is  a slice of Lala land onstage. Yet it is completely beyond original . The 4 characters , cars in tow, we immediately see their frustration as they endure LA traffic, the most heinous gridlock ever encountered .
“Freeway Dreams” might possibly be more like ‘freeway nightmares,’ as each character undergoes his/her own trauma and tribulation with the brilliance of the music and lyrics (Wayne Moore), making their dilemmas all the more poignant .
The license plates identify each character : pizza delivery guy/ restaurant owner (Jonathan Brett ); Queen Bee Brenda  , a casting director and voluptuous lover; (Stephanie B. Andersen).
One plate states “ohm,” referring to Deborah , a yoga class groupie /sexy receptionist ala Marilyn Monroe , (Leslie Rubino); and the last but not least Andrew , a self described ‘fat actor,’ (Darren Mangler).  The opening song “Freeway,”  is a grabber for sure, about how everyone hates the freeway , itinerant cursing and honking in background enabling each character to get to their destination, both literally and figuratively, hopes and dreams not withstanding .
Many comedic scenes abound on this tiny bare stage including one scene in an Italian restaurant where Jonathan Brett recites his menu in song, demonstrating his aspirations beyond a waiter . A wonderful song is belted by Stephanie Anderson : “A Big Woman  Needs  a Big Man ,” and a wonderful rendition of “My Superman” by Leslie Rubino.
One casting session references Steven Spielberg and Tom Cruise  , yet Darren Mangler  will suffice . A constant interplay ensues, between reality and fantasy,  all in the midst of surviving traffic against all odds to fulfill dreams
The director/choreographer of the show (Jim Blanchette) provides a very effective gibberish response to the many phone calls made onstage . This play owes credit to all the stellar players behind the scenes : John Lant (producer ); Wayne Moore ( writer, musical direction ) and Jim Blanchette (direction, choreography).
The Write Act is back on board and we are all blessed .

Through June 11

Write Act Repertory  Brickhouse Theatre

10950 Peach Grove Street Noho

Fridays and Saturdays 8pm; Sundays 6pm

for tickets : 800 838-3006. http://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/2951519

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That’s A Spicy Schtick… in “My Mother’s Italian My Father’s Jewish & I’m in Therapy”

Now playing at the Colony Theatre in Burbank, this play, written by Steve Solomon, and portrayed by Peter Fogel, is the story of one man, a Jewish-Italian hybrid, as it were.  Steve’s only true passion, right from an early age, was stand up comedy and he certainly had a lot of material to draw from his upbringing. Hailing from Long Island, a colony of its own, he credits his dysfunctional family for his much needed years of therapy.  In fact, the entire one man show is set in the therapist’s office, as he delves into his past and present psychoses. His mom from Palermo, Sicily and dad of Jewish heritage, are not seen yet heard through the iconic memories  of their son.  To complicate matters, the Jewish grandparents are a major part of the extended family, all meddling into Steve’s affairs, whether it be in the bedroom(sexual matters); or kitchen (Kosher dietary laws).  They proceed to pile on the guilt, ala a heap of chopped liver on rye, so he never seems quite absolved of his “sins,” and finds himself in the predicament of surviving as a product of two disparate worlds.  A major discussion ensues on Kosher cooking ; little does he know that his wife wishes to dutifully follow the laws while he’s fed up with the hazerai of the whole process.  One could actually say this show is a throwback to the beloved comics of the Borscht Belt era of yesteryear, paying homage to the likes of Buddy Hackett, Jackie Mason and Henny Youngman.  Bringing the nostalgic Catskills humor to the California stage, Fogel’s schticks  and puns galore fill the dialogue, such as when the therapist’s office  receptionist (in voiceover ) states, “you pressed the wrong button on the intercom,” he cleverly retorts, “you’re pushing all my buttons.”

Another running joke is his hard of hearing parents on the telephone, who seem to continually lose their hearing aids, whether by accident or intentional, making matters worse, as they can’t hear (or choose to listen) to what he’s saying.  This pushes Steve even further into therapy, as he states, “make that a double” (session).

As the show’s publicity tag line quite accurately   reads, “one part lasagna, one part kreplach, and two parts Prozac, this show is a laugh a minute must see.

through June 25

the Colony Theatre 555 N Third St Burbank

For reservations:

855- 4487469.  www. playhouseinfo.com

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Jewish Women’s Theatre: Courage at the Core

So many classics and memoirs have been written, centering on the theme of courage; to name a few, “Red Badge of Courage,” and JFK’s “Profiles in Courage.” On that note, the Jewish Women’s Theatre & Newground: A Muslim-Jewish Partnership for Change presented a poignant at home salon theatre, entitled “More Courage.”  One standout vignette (among many)  was written by Barra Grant and performed by Tiffany Mualem; Ayeleyte Robinson and Mark Jacobson. “You can’t be beautiful and hate” told the story of the first Jewish Miss America, Bess Myerson, who wore the badge of courage well, as she faced and defied both subtle and blatant anti-semitism during the pageant. In the end, she just could not abide by the organization’s policies and wishes; i.e. to change her name, etc.  In a proud fit of heroism ala Queen Esther, she declined the tour, removed her gown and crown; and chose to stay loyal to her heritage.

Another wonderful performance, apropos to this upcoming Mother’s Day was a piece called “Mothers,” written by Leora Eren Frucht, adapted from Hadassah Magazine by Rhonda Spinak; and performed by Ayelette Robinson; Aneela Qureshi; Mark Jacobson and Tiffany Mualem.  This vignette focused on two women, one Arab, one Israeli, each from diametrically opposing cultures and mindsets, yet when encountering one another, develop an unbreakable bond as they discover they have more in common than one would ever believe, all in the name of motherly love.

“Kosher Rebel,” written by Abby Stein, and adapted from an interview by Julie Bram, and exquisitely performed by Ayelette Robinson, was perhaps the most powerful, compelling presentation of the evening.  Herman Hesse often wrote about the divergence between men and women and how often men have innate feminine characteristics. Even in today’s world, with transgender culture much less taboo, we are in constant dialogue and discussion over whether men are really men; women are really women; or are we just human beings conflicted within our own bodies? In this performance, a Hasidic man/woman comes to terms with sexuality against all odds and family tradition.

The need to improve and empower Muslim-Jewish relations and strengthen cooperation and mutual respect is clearly evident in this theatrical presentation.  Rather than a black and white news story or documentary, this vivid portrayal is a creative attempt to bridge the gulf.  Jewish Women’s  Theatre  and Newground have impeccably brought together a meeting of the minds and melting of the hearts and souls in one.  It’s clear that the only true solution is negotiation and tolerance , not war, hatred, fear, or madness.

The creativity and collaboration by these talented women is a huge start.

through May 18

http://www.jewishwomenstheatre.org

 

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LAJFF 2017 – Henry Jaglom Centerpiece Premiere

From page to stage to screen, Henry Jaglom’s “Train to Zakopane” will premiere at the Los Angeles Jewish Film Fest 2017, at the Laemmle Music Hall, Beverly Hills, on Saturday April 29th, 8 PM.  “Train to Zakopane’s” tag line is “a true story of hate and love.”  The film version stars the talented leading lady Tanna Frederick and debonaire Mike Falkow.  It is a vivid story of tragic bittersweet love between 2 star crossed lovers, ala Romeo and Juliet, amidst the most uncertain of times.  This original play enjoyed an extended run at the Edgemar Center for the Arts in Santa Monica, and now makes its way to the silver screen, under the impeccable directorship of Henry Jaglom, who will participate in a Q&A following the film, moderated by the Jewish Journal’s David Suissa.  The film contains all the elements making for an evening of suspense, intrigue, mystery, and romance, with characters orchestrating the full gamut of emotion, leaving the audience in a state of awe.

For reservations, visit website at

www. lajfilmfest.org

213 368-1661

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