Monday, April 17, 2017

Review: BELLA GAIA – A Poetic Vision of Earth From Space

Kenji Williams. Bella Gaia

For years we’ve been taught how important it is to take care of the planet. In rural areas, that was especially true because farming the land and managing the earth’s resources meant there was food to eat and water to drink. Those whose parents lived through the Great Depression were schooled in the art of stretching a dollar, recycling and repurposing everyday items, and making do with what you had. You built community and cared about what happened to those around you because you understood that everyone needs help at one point or another.

But little by little, in the hundred years since, we’ve become a much more self-centered throwaway society. Advances in technology and industry have increased our creature comforts but they have also isolated us and built a different kind of dependence, one focused not on community but on the machinery and virtual world of the future. In some ways, we’ve lost sight of our own humanity.

Bella Gaia – A Poetic Vision of Earth From Space is a multi-dimensional musical and visual concert experience created by Kenji Williams that emotionally reconnects us – to each other and to our planet – by offering an extraordinary view of earth as one people, one world. The opening scenes take us through the chemical composition of the planets in our solar system and are a reminder that Earth is the only one that has an atmosphere able to sustain human life. Every other planet is uninhabitable.

Most of us will never circle the globe in a space capsule but in Bella Gaia we get to see the next best thing: images of earth from outer space by astronauts who made the journey. We also get to hear their incredible thoughts about what those experiences taught them. They talk about oceans that touch countries separated by borders that don’t exist when you see them from space, and how fragile the thin line of earth’s atmosphere appears from this God-like vantage point.

One astronaut aboard the International Space Station shared that on the first day of his round-the-globe adventure, they all focused on their own countries. After two or three days, on their own continent. By the fifth day, their perspective had shifted and they only saw one planet. That’s the “overview effect” – a psychological change in awareness that happens to astronauts when they experience what earth looks like suspended in space for the first time.

The footage in Bella Gaia is breathtaking and when you add the musicians – Williams on violin, Yumi Kurosawa on Japanese 20-string Koto, and vocalist Kristin Hoffmann, the resulting artistry takes on the allure of the mystical.

Exotic dancers join the group for several mesmerizing sequences with imagery from Egypt and India, the fiery sun, and the infinite cosmos. The negative effect of climate change on the Ganges River, without which the people of India could not survive, becomes a sobering reality as the message that the Ganges could run dry in our lifetime scrolls across a photograph of parched earth.

Kaeshi. Photo by Chris Cunningham

Beauty, and the global influences that threaten it, are interwoven throughout the piece. Cherry blossoms in Japan, Tokyo’s city lights, and the happy faces of children playing in water plumes from neighborhood fire hydrants contrast with visuals of oil consumption, population growth, and the effects of deforestation.

Nothing is heavy-handed but the message is clear. What affects one affects all. Perhaps the most unforgettable example shown was of a dust storm in the Sahara desert, photographed swirling in the air in Russia, that finally settled to the ground in the Philippines.

Bella Gaia = mind blown, in a glorious collision of science and art. It is an explosion of color, sound, and light that will restore your faith in the almighty and remind you that the beauty of our planet is enough to take your breath away. Deeply meaningful. Meditatively heartfelt. It was a perfect way to celebrate Earth Day at Caltech's Beckman Auditorium before the weekend. The next time it comes to Southern California, it goes on your calendar.

For more about the performance, visit

Yumi Kurosawa. Photo by Dale Landon

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Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Meet the Producers of A LITTLE NEW MUSIC

L-R: Producers Peter Welkin, Amy Francis Schott, Luke Klipp, Corey Lynn Howe,
Christopher Maikish, and Kila Packett

It takes a village to create a new musical. And it takes a village like A Little New Music to give musical theatre writers a place to showcase new material while their Broadway-hopeful shows are in development. It’s an important part of the process, getting your songs in front of an audience. For the last four years, A Little New Music has presented quarterly concerts that offer the best new songs musical theatre has to offer and audiences can’t get enough of it. Neither can those behind the scenes.

The producers of the series readily admit they love what they do and each one brings his or her own unique perspective to the process of “putting on a show.” Meet Peter Welkin, Christopher Maikish, Luke Klipp, Amy Francis Schott, and Kila Packett from A Little New Music. In this interview, they discuss their roles as producers and what musical theatre means to them. I hope you enjoy this window into their world.

Peter Welkin (Executive Producer) A relationship evolves
For many years I thought that the only way to be part of musical theater was to work really hard learning to sing, act and dance and then jump at any chance to take the first paid gig that came along. That taught me a lot about the trials and tribulations of being a performer but I was always chasing the tail of the business, trying to fit into the mold of the established musicals and the previously-defined characters that were required. 

When I got involved with the Academy for New Musical Theater, I had a revelation – a nearly spiritual one. I realized that there was a whole new world of possibilities when it came to being in on the ground floor of developing new musical theatre works. I wanted to be part of the bleeding edge of this new musical theatre world, and ever since then, I’ve been involved in innumerable shows, readings, presentations, and more recently, concert productions, showcasing exciting new musical theatre material. 

Early on, an ALNM concert attendee remarked that she “loved what we were doing and that she was so excited to feel like she was getting a sneak-peek at the future of Broadway.” Something fresh, something new, something exciting, that’s what keeps me motivated to do to this. Answering this need for our audience makes them more like an insider, and puts them closer to the cutting edge of the musical theatre art. I love to be able to say, “Oh yeah, Come From Away is on Broadway now, but we presented a song from that show almost two years ago, before most people had ever even heard of it.” That’s super exciting to me!

Holding the vision
Luckily, I’m not the only person who needs to maintain the vision for what we do. Our team is composed of people with really different backgrounds who are all dedicated to volunteering their time to bring our shows to fruition. We often rotate the producing roles when we build a show to avoid burnout. As an entirely volunteer group, each of us makes the choice to spend our free time working on this. That means we’re each dealing with our various jobs, relationships and family obligations, which can easily distract us. It’s not always easy to keep everyone moving in the same direction. But, knowing that we have a team of people who care deeply about the quality, freshness, and excitement factor in the new material makes my job that much easier. 

There’s nothing like the feeling of sitting in that audience, and hearing and seeing how these new songs connect with people. That’s what makes it all worthwhile, knowing that we consciously created something an audience has never seen before, and given them a glimpse into a world of musical theater possibilities they didn’t know existed. Which reminds me of a famous Sondheim lyric…

“White, a blank page or canvas. The challenge: bring order to the whole, through design, composition, tension, balance, light and harmony.” – Sunday in the Park with George

L-R: Mitch Glaser, Kila Packett, Peter Welkin, Amy Francis Schott, Luke Klipp, and 
Christopher Maikish in an ALNM producers meeting

Christopher Maikish (Founding Producer/Artistic Producer) Collaboration is key
Because our production structure encourages rotation of roles for each concert, I think it breeds empathy amongst the team and also allows us an opportunity to engage intellectually with varying parts of “putting on the show.” Most of us have volunteered more than 500 hours each since 2012, encompassing 14 LA concerts, a special San Francisco engagement at Feinstein’s, and two years of presenting the “ALNM Outstanding Songwriting Award” at the Hollywood Fringe Festival.

The hats I’ve worn in my own professional life have been as performer, graphic designer, marketing manager, hospitality, and museum administration. I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised that this project would end up being a great unifier of those experiences. And the time I’ve spent collaborating with writers, performers, and producers has given me the confidence to lead, and to lead with purpose.

Shaping the show
In the early days, we discussed having themed concepts for each show, but we decided that the idea of the “NEW” was more than enough. We really just want to share the songs we are most excited about. What generates that excitement? It might be a world premiere, an underserved storyline, a sophisticated melody, an unexpectedly clever lyric, an amazing new writer LA needs to meet, a show with momentum, the opportunity to break from tired casting tropes, a damn-funny song, or simply an unforgettable moment.

Programming always feels a little bit like winemaking – you’re never fully in control of what the audience will experience, but you’re after the right balance of ingredients. We lean towards keeping the night upbeat, crisp, and fun. We program an eclectic blend of musical styles and we do seek a few name performers per concert. The hard fact is that it helps create momentum for filling the room, but we love local, new talent. We look for a balance in representation for both writers and performers regarding gender, race, age, life experience, etc. Logistics don’t always let us achieve that perfectly, but these are transparent and active conversations.

A commitment to diversity
That ethos has been front and center for me since the beginning. A Little New Music is in pursuit of a future artistic world and I believe diverse representation starts with the decision makers. Female, Trans, and POC writer friends – know that we want to hear from you. If our evening of songs is serving a singular idea, for me it’s this: You are not alone and you are welcome here. All of you. Let’s celebrate.

At a time when society is receding into the numbing safety of technology, bringing the LA theater community into the same room to reflect on human life, to find an entertaining escape, or to make new connections feels more important than ever. I know performers who have found agents and lucrative projects from singing at our concerts. I know people who literally met and fell in love. And I know emerging writers now within earshot of producers we’ve had in our rooms. It’s intensely satisfying to have helped facilitate that.

Christopher Maikish and Luke Klipp
Luke Klipp (Founding Producer) Musical theatre meets life
Chris Maikish and I originally conceived ALNM as a commercially-accessible artistic presentation and as a way to further connect LA’s burgeoning musical theatre community, but there’s been a growing sense in the last few months that this community offers even more than that. Musical theatre is one thread of a much larger artistic tapestry that gives people comfort, joy, hope, and conviction in difficult times.

For me personally, performance and politics have generally been separate, and the challenge in straddling two very different worlds has made committing wholly to either of them virtually impossible. What I hope people are starting to recognize within the current political climate is that there is more to life than its mere existence, and that we also need to consider what makes life worthwhile.

Musical theatre – and the arts more generally – are an invaluable element to that idea of what makes life worth living. Every single show that we have done has had moments that brought me to tears, moments that made me laugh out loud, and moments that caused me to think about my life and my role in the world. Every single show.

Amy Francis Schott (Managing Producer) Getting it done
For this particular show, I’m the utility player. Whatever needs to be done, I’ll do it. I’m a longtime stage manager so it’s natural for me to take on that role with ALNM. My other role, and the one I love the most, is writer outreach. Writers are the rockstars of my world: what they do, creating words and music which come together into more than the sum of their parts. That is the coolest thing I can imagine.

Music, music, music
We get a lot of song submissions – over 80 this last round – and there are songs we carry over because we love them and want to present them but, for whatever reason, they don’t fit into the current show we’re doing. Sometimes it’s because we can’t find the right casting or because another song we’ve chosen has too much similar DNA. We’ve held songs over 3 or 4 times, sometimes even a year, until it finds a place in the right show.

A story behind every song
Tim Rosser and Charlie Sohne are NYC writers and we’ve featured them a number of times in our concerts. When their show The Boy Who Danced on Air had its world premiere at Diversionary Theatre in San Diego last year, we were able to get the two leads to come up to LA the week after it closed to sing a duet from the show. Now the musical is about to make its Off-Broadway premiere at Abingdon Theatre Company in May. 

A few years ago I met the writers of Come From Away at NAMT (National Alliance for Musical Theatre), Irene Sankoff and David Hein. We ended up having lunch together and we became Facebook friends. The next year, Come From Away was featured at NAMT. It was one of the most extraordinary musicals I’d ever seen and everyone was talking about it. Through that connection, we were able to present “Me and the Sky” from the show in our September 2014 concert. Since then, I’ve had the joy of seeing it brought fully to life at La Jolla Playhouse in 2016 and now the world can see it on Broadway!

We’ve programmed songs by established writers like Kate Kerrigan and Brian Lowdermilk (their new show The Mad Ones is about to go up Off-Broadway) and also up-and-comers like Michael R. Jackson. The first time we featured Kerrigan and Lowdermilk was an unusual situation. They have a friend who is an opera singer, Zach Altman, and I had seen him sing this amazing song “One Last Prayer” from their musical Republic, based on Shakespeare’s Henry VI, Parts 1 & 2 and set in Northern Ireland in the 1970s. It was stunning. Turns out, Zach was going to be in LA and we were able to make arrangements for him to come and perform with us. 

The first time I heard Michael’s music was in a late night concert after NYMF (New York Musical Festival). He wrote a song called “Miss Lucy” that I fell in love with and I asked him about it after the show. Cut to later when he submitted “Bathtub At The Beverly Hills Hotel” for ALNM and we found the amazing Jasmin Richardson (who’s on tour with The Bodyguard right now) to perform it. The song is sung from Whitney Houston’s point of view in her final moments. Jasmin gave an incredible performance and it ended up becoming one of the high points of the series.

Kila Packett (Marketing Producer): Every village needs its people
There are a lot of ways we bring the people to our village. Our website, designing posters, emails, press releases, videos showcasing our writers and performers, social media posts on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram; college outreach, musical theatre clubs, and word of mouth; returning patrons, and of course name talent!  

For example, on social media, I want our followers to join us in the day-to-day journey of how we piece a concert together. Similar to how celebrities post stories on their Facebook Live and Instagram, I like to be transparent with our audience by giving them a real behind-the-scenes view of our process.

We have followers from all around the country who seek out musicals and, if we can make our routine a little more personal, it gives them a sense of being part of our community – a vibrant and constantly growing family of artists and art lovers. We are always trying new approaches for our promotional videos, and because music is such a great part of what we do, we want to challenge the listener to hear us in exciting new ways.

Cant help falling in love
I grew up loving musicals from watching movies and TV specials, records, and cassette tapes. I remember seeing Annie in the movie theater, The Mikado on PBS, my aunt played Guinevere in a production of Camelot, and my mother owned the recording of Funny Girl but I never saw a Broadway musical live until later in life. I know there are people just like me who want to hear the newest material so it makes promoting our work that much easier. There is a huge audience out there and social media not only brings our work to the masses, it helps us find new talent. That’s what I love about being at the forefront of cutting edge musical theatre. I get to be an ambassador for lovers of this art form and help bring people together. It doesn’t get better than that.  

*      *      *     *      *

A Little New Music’s producing team also includes Corey Lynn Howe, Mitch Glaser, Katherine Washington, Katie Porter, Chelsea Rae Bernier, Eran Scoggins, Michelle Lane, and musical director Gregory Nabours. Their next concert is April 24th at Catalina Bar & Grill, 6725 Sunset Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90028. Doors open at 7pm for the 8:30 pm curtain. For tickets and more information, call (323) 466-2210 or visit

Since 2013, A Little New Music has featured over 170 songs by writers such as Sankoff & Hein, Pasek & Paul, Miller & Tysen, Ryan Scott Oliver, Carmel Dean, Kerrigan & Lowdermilk, Milburn & Vigoda, Adam Gwon, Joe Iconis, Drew Fornarola, Zoe Sarnak, Erik Przytulski, Michael Finke, Rollins & Levine, and Gregory Nabours. More than 200 performers have appeared in ALNM concerts including Daisy Eagan, Jeff Marx, John Tartaglia, Shoshana Bean, Barrett Foa, Nicole Parker, Krysta Rodriguez, and Michael A. Shepperd.

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Friday, March 24, 2017

Review: ABSINTHE L.A. Brings Sin City to Los Angeles, and It's an Instant Hit

The Farquhars. All photos by Erik Kabik

It used to be true that what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas. But not anymore. For the next five weeks, LA audiences will get a taste of Sin City right here in our own backyard, thanks to Spiegelworld’s in-your-face adults-only production, Absinthe L.A.

The raunchy spin on an intimate Cirque-style burlesque (if such a show were bent, twisted, served up in the back room of a 1920’s speakeasy, and run through a smoky 3am wringer) has played to sellout crowds on the grounds outside Caesars Palace for nearly six years and shows no sign of slowing down. It is the most talked about entertainment on the strip and the perfect destination if you want to get a full-on Vegas experience.

Last night’s opening downtown at L.A. Live proved that local audiences are just as crazy about it as those lost in the casino haze of the desert. It’s a show that asks viewers to let loose and indulge in the delights of the flesh. (You can look but can’t touch) Sexy, raw, and loaded with nearly a dozen acts whose jaw-dropping talents will blow you away, it’s one of those unforgettable theatrical events you should experience at least once in your lifetime.

The evening is orchestrated by The Gazillionaire, a master of ceremonies and lounge lizard whose style of comedy purposely hits below the belt. Expect politically incorrect jokes that are so wrong they’re hilarious. He makes no apologies for his X-rated material so if you're easily offended or uncomfortable with sexual humor, better have those drinks before the show. You’re going to need them. If he can see you in the audience, you’re fair game, so choose your seat location wisely when you purchase your tickets.

Seating is in-the-round. A small nine-foot in diameter stage at the center is where all of the circus acts take place, with an additional satellite staging area for the Gazillionaire that sits up at the far end. The extraordinary skill level of the artists and their unique combination of talents is astonishing. It doesn’t hurt that they’re also beautiful, cut to perfection, and choreographed for maximum emotional impact. A veritable smorgasbord of sensual delights, there is something for everyone.

The Twizzlers

When I saw the show in Vegas last spring, it was the roller skating brother & sister duo of Billy and Emily England, known as The Twizzlers, who were the highlight of the show.  Their act is a dangerous and thrilling spectacle set to Hozier’s Take Me To Church and I’m happy to report they’ve brought it to LA for this engagement. It’s the kind of performance where a fraction of an inch means the difference between walking away or being driven away in an ambulance, and definitely one of Absinthe’s wow moments.

The Flying Farquhars' gorgeous aerial pas de deux feels like Romeo and Juliet in flight while The Lost Boys from Eastern Europe perform feats of Herculean strength you can’t believe are humanly possible. Max Matterhorn’s slow motion pole balancing is achingly beautiful and those with a secret penchant for bondage will find an act just for their viewing pleasure.

The men of Los Dos Tacos perform a breathtaking horizontal bar routine that looks like they are about to be propelled into the audience. Bodies fly, hands twist, and they’ve got you on the edge of your seat. Add more beauty in the air, the Girl in the Bubble, a trio of acrobats known as the Silicone Valley Girls, a stripper who can shake a set of pasties with the power of double torpedoes, aerial school girls, an hysterical comedy acro act, a sexy singer, and a chair stacking opening that reaches the top of the Spiegeltent, and all creative bases are covered. (Acts subject to change)

Absinthe L.A. is a show with an attitude. Full of Vegas vulgarity and genuine artistry, it is the must-see event of the spring!

March 22 - April 23, 2017
Spiegelworld Tent at L.A. LIVE’s Event Deck
1005 Chick Hearn Ct., Los Angeles CA 90015
Tickets start at $49

The Gazillionaire

The Lost Boys

The Silicone Valley Girls

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Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Review: Not Man Apart's PARADISE LOST is a Visceral World

Jones Talmadge (Satan), Anne-Marie Talmadge (Michael), Alex Garland (Beelzebub), Kendall Johnson (Raphael), Elisa Rosin (Gabriel), Moses Norton (Belial),  and Janine Montag (Moloch).
All photos by Anthony Roldan

The purpose of all theatre - regardless of its individual form, style, or manner of presentation - is communication. It must be able to reach an audience before it can even begin to challenge them, or change them, or even simply make them feel something. If it does not, it will have failed in its all-important task, for without that two-way bond, the artists on stage end up performing in a vacuum and the audience quickly loses interest.

There’s not a chance in hell that an audience member could fail to be engaged in Not Man Apart Physical Theatre Ensemble’s latest new work, Paradise Lost: Reclaiming Destiny. The company has found a tantalizing niche with its athletically rich dance, movement & sensory exploration of stories that literally leap off the stage into the stratosphere. This latest production pushes that unique concept to new heights as it invokes the mighty forces of good and evil in a struggle of epic proportions.

The piece runs 65 minutes in length and is adapted and handsomely directed by NMA’s co-artistic director & longtime company member Jones (Welsh) Talmadge. It is performed without dialogue, but combines dance, movement, music, aerial acrobatics, and interactive video projections, to create a theatrical world that never stops moving. The visual design by J-Walt Adamczyk (who also plays Father God) is dazzling, with psychedelic images that morph and mature like a living breathing character, all generated by cast members on stage.

Based on John Miltons classic poetic narrative about Satan’s banishment from Heaven, and his subsequent role in Adam and Eve’s fall from grace, it is a visceral interpretation of the story that has, at its heart, a modernistic point of view. As gender roles today come sharply under scrutiny, this version of the story honors Milton’s underlying themes but does so by making fresh decisions in the way it carries out its story.

Leslie Charles Roy Jr. (Adam) and Alina Bolshakova (Eve)

For example, here it is Adam (
Leslie Charles Roy Jr.) who is tempted by Satan and eats of the forbidden fruit, then convinces Eve (Alina Bolshakova) to do the same. This simple reversal is a bold choice and one that encapsulates Paradise Lost’s message by disrupting what is expected in order to break open the possibilities of what lies beyond.

Another way the production disrupts the predictable is by inserting a fantasy sequence ripped from the era of Leave it to Beaver, but with a twist. A stereotypical 1950’s husband and wife are having dinner in their happy sitcom kitchen but the scene turns sinister when daddy doesn’t like his meal and his terrified spouse ends up the victim of domestic abuse. That the characters are played by fallen angels Sin (Laura Covelli) and Death (James Bane) makes it even more macabre, as does their behavior’s resulting effect on Adam and Eve.

The cast is a ridiculously talented group of artists who make the rigorous physical aspects of the play appear effortless. Whether engaged in forceful battle scenes or moments of abject peace and beauty, each one burrows into the story from his or her point of view and contributes to an emotional journey that elicits great rewards.

None are more seductively wrought than Satan himself, powerfully played by Talmadge in a striking performance precariously balanced on the edge. If you watch the effect he has on every other character on stage, you’ll come away with an even deeper understanding of how connected we all really are. You’ll also see how nothing is as black and white as it seems. He may be a brute but there is beauty in his torturous descent into hell, which is choreographed as a muscular display of aerial gymnastics with the artist suspended from chains while a cataclysmic panorama erupts behind him. It is both ugly and devastatingly gorgeous at the same time.

The original score by Bernie Sirelson, Alysia Michelle James and Elisa Rosin is a blend of techno pop, rock, and electronic music that ranges from the majestic to the subtle, with a few angelic vocals thrown in for good measure.

Sound, lighting, and costume design (created by Niki Amato, John E.D. Bass, and Ashphord Jacoway, respectively) further enhance the multi-dimensional quality of the play as all the separate elements coalesce into a single pulsing heartbeat.

With Paradise Lost, Not Man Apart continues its evolution as a company while passionately exploring the connections between humanity and art, actor and audience, individual and the world. Making theatre relevant with such sophistication is a special kind of brilliance. More, please.

March 10 - April 2, 2017
Not Man Apart Physical Theatre Ensemble
Greenway Court Theatre
544 N. Fairfax Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90036

Alex Garland (Beelzebub), Moses Norton (Belial), Kendall Johnson (Raphael),
Joseph Baca (Abdiel), and Elisa Rosin (Gabriel)

J-Walt Adamczyk (Father God), Zach Davidson (Son of God), and
Marguerite French (Mother God)

Elisa Rosin (Gabriel), Anne-Marie Talmadge (Michael), Alex Garland (Beelzebub),
Kendall Johnson (Raphael), Moses Norton (Belial), Janine Montag (Moloch),
 Jones Talmadge (Satan), and Joseph Baca (Abdiel)

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Thursday, February 16, 2017

Review: CIRCUS 1903 Recreates the Golden Age of Circus

Jessica Spalis and Peanut the Elephant. All photos by Mark Turner

If Dorothy in The Wonderful Wizard of Oz had run away from home and found this traveling circus instead of Professor Marvel and his crystal ball, she might never have gotten swept up in a twister and landed in Munchkinland. Instead, she might have become part of a new family, the kind that traveled the dust bowl in the early part of the twentieth century and instilled a sense of wonder in every child who was lucky enough to hear that the circus was coming to town.

Such is the world of Circus 1903 - The Golden Age of Circus now raising its tent nightly at the Hollywood Pantages Theatre. It only plays through February 19th and that isn't nearly long enough for this exquisitely crafted show from the producers of The Illusionists (Simon Painter, Tim Lawson, and MagicSpace Entertainment). Mesmerizing music, costumes that evoke the authenticity of the period, lighting and sets that transport you out of the daily grind into the fantastical...I would see every performance that plays in LA and still not have gotten enough of it.

The allure of the impossible and the graceful artistry of performers who have spent a lifetime developing their skills come together in a whimsically nostalgic presentation. The international cast includes some of the finest artists you'll ever see within their individual disciplines. From the teeterboard expertise of The Flying Fins, to the foot juggling act of the sexy Rossi Brothers, to the exciting showmanship of The Great Gaston - who juggles clubs faster than you can believe possible - it's a show you'll never forget.

The Flying Fins - Artur Ivankovich, Petter Vatermark, and AJ Saltalamacchia.

One of the unique characteristics that sets it apart from other circus entertainments is that the character each performer plays is so human it is hard not to fall in love with them. Florian Blummel, the German Cycling Cyclone, circles the stage in an amazing display of "bicycle ballet" with a twinkle in his eye and a look on his face of complete joy. Duo Flash (Yevgeniy Dashkivskyy and Yefrem Bitkine from the Ukraine) combines intricately choreographed acrobatic skills and a lilting sense of humor while making what they do look so easy. They're like your funny, friendly next door neighbors who just bounced by for a visit.

Overhead you'll find beauty in the air with Lucky Moon, Elena Gatilova's aerial ballet on a suspended hoop. The luminous artist offers an emotional performance so affecting it will bring tears to your eyes, or at least make you believe in romance again. Les Incredibles, the husband and wife duo of Anny Laplante and Andrei Kalesnikau perform a passionate and dangerous aerial act that relies on strength, trust, and absolute precision, while The Lopez Family on the highwire defies the laws of gravity without even using a safety net. Rola bola man, Mikhail Sozonov takes balance to new heights in another dizzying demonstration twenty years in the making. The control these performers have over their bodies is remarkable.

The aerial beauty of Elena Gatilova as Lucky Moon

The star of the side show is contortionist Senayet Asefa Amare, known as The Elastic Dislocationist, who can literally break her body in half and have the two sections move independently of each other. I've never seen anything like it and found it to be an unexpectedly beautiful and liquid performance that moves like a dance.

A number of wonderful surprises are built into the show that also reinvent typical circus conventions in an entirely new, highly-imaginative way. The puppeteers who created the National Theatre's production of War Horse have brought to life a massive mother and baby elephant who steal the show with their charms. Their eyes are so expressive and they move with such elegant ease that you'd almost think they were real.

A full-stage transformation from prologue to big top by the end of Act I, which includes the raising of the tent and revelation of the big top performers, is absolutely breathtaking and an incredible way to propel the audience into intermission. This circus has magic in its bones and good old family fun at its heart.

Overseeing it all is Willy Whipsnade (David Williamson), the charismatic and likable Ringmaster who resembles Sam Elliott and has the actor's same ability to hold the audience in the palm of his hand. He communicates volumes with only a raise of the eyebrow or a sideways smirk. The children he invites onstage into his act have no idea that they are about to provide some of the funniest moments in the show but, just when you think it's all about the comedy, Williamson turns it right around and delivers an arrow to the heart. This back and forth exchange between humor and pathos runs throughout the show giving it depth and richness that makes the whole experience something very special.

Gorgeous in every detail, Circus 1903 overdelivers on the promise of a grand time for the whole family. Believe me, you want to see this show!

CIRCUS 1903: The Golden Age of Circus
February 14 – 19, 2017
Hollywood Pantages
6233 Hollywood Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90028 

Francois Borie - The Great Gaston

Mikhail Sozonov - The Sensational Sozonov

Queenie the Elephant

Las Lopez (Johan and Jonatan Lopez and Maria Jose Pontigo) on the highwire

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Monday, February 6, 2017

Center Theatre Group and Fun Home Announce Choir Competition!

Heads up singers - want to win tickets to see Fun Home at the Ahmanson? Center Theatre Group is holding a cool choir competition in conjunction with the upcoming national tour of Fun Home, which begins performances at the Ahmanson Theatre on February 21st!

All you need to do is record a video of your group singing Fun Home’s signature song, “Ring of Keys” for a chance to win tickets for your whole group to see the show. To make it even easier, they have provided sheet music for a 4-part a cappella vocal arrangement that you may use, or you can come up with your own. It's totally up to you how creative you'd like to be. (Download sheet music HERE)

Here are all details:

WHO: All individual and non-professional choirs (clubs, high schools, colleges)

HOW: Videos must be submitted as YouTube links to

Video length should be at least two mins, but no more than five mins. Introduction of your group should be no more than one minute. All videos will be posted on Center Theatre Group’s YouTube Channel beginning Monday, February 27 and ending Friday, March 3. The video that receives the most likes will be the contest winner. The winner will be contacted by March 8.


  • Friday, February 24: Final submission date; all videos uploaded to YouTube
  • Monday, February 27: YouTube judging begins
  • Friday, March 1: YouTube judging ends
  • Wednesday, March 8: Winner(s) notified; Winner will be announced on social media and via a press release
  • Wednesday, March 15: Winner attends performance with post-performance company meet and greet

Contest Update: The deadline for submissions has been extended until March 10th. Winners will receive tickets to the March 29th performance.
  • All submissions must be received online.
  • Videos must be submitted as YouTube links to
  • Submission date is February 24.
  • Winners will receive tickets the Wednesday, March 15.
  • If they are individuals, they will receive a pair of tickets
  •  If they are group, they will receive one ticket per participant. Number of group tickets cannot exceed 50 tickets.
  • All videos submitted will become property of Center Theatre Group.
For a little additional inspiration, here is the cast's performance of “Ring of Keys” from the 2015 Tony Awards and below it, a video by Top Shelf Vocal. Good luck everyone! For more information about the Sing Out “Ring of Keys” Contest, please visit

The cast of the National Tour of Fun Home

Photo credit: Joan Marcus

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Comedy Faceposted by Ellen Dostal, MusicalsInLA @
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