Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Review: MILLION DOLLAR QUARTET Captures Rock and Roll History

L-R: John Countryman, Michael Monroe Goodman, Cole, and David Elkins
All photos by Caught in the Moment Photography

3-D Theatricals recreates a pivotal moment in rock and roll history in their latest production, Million Dollar Quartet. It’s the date (December 4, 1956) four legendary musicians – Carl Perkins, Jerry Lee Lewis, Elvis Presley, and Johnny Cash – would all end up at Sun Records in Memphis on the same day and take part in one of the most famous jam sessions of all times.

Carl was there to record a new song Sun Records’ founder Sam Phillips hoped would revitalize his career, with the addition of a young, unknown piano player named Jerry Lee Lewis. Elvis dropped by with his girlfriend to get some advice from the man who discovered him, and Johnny, who’d been avoiding Phillips in recent weeks, stopped in for a heart-to-heart while June and kids were out shopping. Get that many artists with a passion for music in their souls together and it’s only a matter of time before they start to jam.

John Countryman, Michael Monroe Goodman, Cole, and David Elkins

Luckily, an engineer rolled tape and captured the foursome shooting the breeze and singing familiar hymns and country songs for the next several hours. It was the one and only time the King of Rockabilly, the Killer, the King of Rock ‘n Roll, and the Man in Black would ever play together and that alone makes it one for the books. Dubbed the Million Dollar Quartet by the press in an article about the event, this high-energy musical is a dramatization of that day.

Only a handful of the 22+ songs in the show by creators Colin Escott and Floyd Mutrux were actually recorded that afternoon but the stage musical features many of their greatest hits including “Blue Suede Shoes,” “Real Wild Child,” “Matchbox,” and “Folsom Prison Blues.” Don’t start to leave during curtain call because some of the best songs take place during the encore in a finale that literally had the audience at the Redondo Beach Performing Arts Center on its feet cheering and bopping to the beat (no small feat in this location).

David Lober recreates Mutrux’s original direction and the production uses many of the official technical elements from the National Tour, including props and guitars, Derek McLane’s original set, and costumes based on Jane Greenwood’s original designs. If you saw Million Dollar Quartet at the Hollywood Pantages in 2012, you’re sure to have a happy moment of déjà vu when the most surprising element of all drops from the ceiling like a gift from the gods.

Omar Brancato, David Lamoureux, Cole, and Zachary Ford

The show is narrated by Zachary Ford as Sam Phillips (albeit with a little too much Barney Fife gusto), who relates how he discovered each of the artists when they were young and poor. In addition to the music, there is drama in the studio as Jerry Lee and Carl clash, and secrets come to light that will affect the future of Sun Records. The four actor/musicians who play the artists in question are immensely talented and all of them have appeared in numerous productions of the show in cities like Las Vegas and Chicago, and around the country on its National Tour. Each steps into his icon’s unique energy and personality like a second skin and all sound eerily like their counterparts.

John Countryman grabs hold of Jerry Lee’s cocksure, showy style and never lets go. Cole has Elvis’s hip-swiveling, swoon worthy moves down to a science, and Michael Monroe Goodman adds a charismatic intensity to Perkins’ guitar picking that shows why musicians are among the sexiest beings on the planet. As Cash, David Elkins is quietly charming and impresses by replicating the singer’s signature bass vocals as few can. When they lay back into effortless 4-part harmony on spirituals like “Down by the Riverside” it is breathtaking. Omar Brancato (as Jay Perkins) on upright bass and David Lamoureux (Fluke) on drums back the headliners with reckless abandon.

Adrienne Visnic
The odd man out is actually a woman, Adrienne Visnic playing Dyanne, an eye candy character based on one of Elvis’ many girlfriends, since no one knew who the real woman at the session was until more recently. Visnic has a lovely voice but oversings her biggest number, “Fever” most famously recorded by Peggy Lee. Shes a young actor playing at being sexy with generic poses and a constant smile that keep her in trivial territory.

But it hardly matters. This show belongs to the boys and this cast is the real deal. Million Dollar Quartet is a rock and roll thrill-ride-a-minute brought to life by four incredible musicians emulating four amazing musical icons. That’s all you really need for success.

John Countryman as Jerry Lee Lewis

Michael Monroe Goodman as Carl Perkins and David Elkins as Johnny Cash

Feb 9 – 18, 2018
Redondo Beach Performing Arts Center
Feb 23 - March 4, 2018
Cerritos Center for the Performing Arts3-D Theatricals
Tickets: www.3dtheatricals.org

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Monday, February 5, 2018

Review: The Brick: A One Man Musical Metamorphosis

Bill Berry. All photos by James F. Dean

In Bill Berry’s solo show The Brick: A One Man Musical, Berry isn’t addressing the audience in a theater. He’s on a beach having a two-way conversation with his dead mother and we are the accidental eavesdroppers who witness their complicated relationship unfold piecemeal. The convention is more akin to a play than a typical solo performance, a smart decision that sidesteps many of the pitfalls solo artists often fall into. It isn’t self-indulgent, doesn’t require that the audience be his scene partner, and lets each person take the journey with him by not establishing a foregone conclusion.

We meet Berry carefully picking his way over the rocks on an unnamed beach. There is a pained determination in his eyes as he lays out his beach towel, places his cooler, and pulls out his guitar. The purpose of his visit is to have a conversation with his mom to decide whether he will speak her name for the last time, at which point she will have experienced her third death.

The idea is part of neuroscientist David Eagleman’s theory of three deaths. The first occurs when a person physically dies, the second when they are buried, and the third, when their name is spoken for the last time, thus completing the cycle of death.

For Berry, the decision means telling the truth about a past no child should have to endure. A workaholic father and an alcoholic mother who demeans her son by repeatedly calling him a loser might set the stage for a one-sided accusatory tale. But rather than a simple blame game, Berry is more thoughtful in his approach.

He decides to tell her what it was like growing up from his perspective as a child left to fend for himself. The stories are poignant, unsettling, and often wickedly humorous despite their regrettable subjects. A boy wading through a grown-up world without the tools to maneuver it instilled by a good parent can easily fall prey to those who would take advantage, as his experience with a gardener ten years his senior reveals. Berry’s gift is in finding the humor in the pain and, because he is disarmingly honest, we instantly empathize with him.

He divulges the bleak reality of his home life in a memory about an electrical blackout. In his home, they sit silently by a single candle casting only enough light for his mother to see her bottle. At an opportune moment he escapes to his friend’s house where he finds the family having an ice cream party, eating all their ice cream before it can melt. Asked if he wants mint chip or fudge ripple, Berry is so taken aback at the laughter and joy he sees that he can’t even answer. “Is this what a normal family is like?” he wonders.

In ten songs and 85 minutes, he continues to get down and dirty with his mom as he tries to resolve the puzzlement of his formative years and how they impacted all of his decisions in life. The unfortunate (and comic) consequences of a one night stand, a night in jail after “stealing Steve Martin,” and a cockfight that saved his life show him to be a masterful storyteller regardless of the style of song. His insightful lyrics capture the essence of a fragile moment (how odd that other parents have time in the afternoon to watch their sons play baseball) as easily as a highly-charged one (“you can tell a lot about a man by what he uses his brick for”).

As an actor, Berry is naturally open and vulnerable. As a musician, he flies. At this performance, the audience was so acutely tuned to his energy I don’t even think they realized they were singing softly along with him on “Two Crows,” a haunting song about the wisdom of age. That kind of organic connection is something that cannot be manufactured and I found it to be incredibly powerful. It helps that he knows how to write a song with a hook that stays with you even after you’ve left the theater.

The metamorphosis that takes place on this cathartic musical journey is a rich one and it is beautifully directed by Kelly DeSarla. What could become a dark descent into hell instead shimmers with a light touch making the show’s poignant message all the more powerful in its subtlety. Berry never overplays his hand but holds firm in the truthfulness of his narrative. Feet firmly planted in the sand like a kid, armed with six strings and his soul, he is an inherently likable human being and one helluva writer. Bonus - the guy knows how to tell a good joke.

If you’re in Canada this summer, you can see Berry’s musical in one of two locations: The Regina International Fringe Theatre Festival (July 11-15) or The 37th Edmonton International Fringe Theatre Festival (August 16-26). Youd be crazy to miss it the next time he presents it in LA. For more information about upcoming local performances, go to www.billberrymusic.com.

February 1, 2018 (closed)
Whitefire Theatre 13500 Ventura Blvd. 
Sherman Oaks, CA 91423

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Sunday, January 28, 2018

Review: It's Party Time for The Hypocrites in PIRATES OF PENZANCE

All photos by Jenny Graham

Say what you will, The Hypocrites have found a way to transform traditional theatre into a form of entertainment that appeals to folks whod rather go to a party than sit in a theater. And they’ve done it using Gilbert & Sullivans operetta The Pirates of Penzance. No joke.

Gilbert & Sullivan were the satirists of their day, parodying everything from politics to grand opera (the pop music of the Victorian era) so it isnt surprising that the Chicago-based company would choose to reinvent their comic operas to fit the taste of current audiences. (Theyve also given the Hypocrite treatment to The Mikado and H.M.S. Pinafore.) From the production design to the adaptation and style of the performance, their novel approach is a stimulating example of how to deconstruct a classic and put it back together again in a fresh, fun, and thoroughly engaging manner.

Trimmed down to a tidy 80 minutes (plus a one minute intermission) the ensemble tells its pirate story of love and adventure amid a beach party setting. Tiki torches and overhead strands of lights cast an inviting glow, a central winding boardwalk is shared by actors and audience, and an island bar sells drinks throughout the show.

Most of the audience is seated “in the water” on colorful folding chairs atop risers painted Caribbean blue, proving that scenic designer Tom Burch knows how to be funny too. A fair number of general admission attendees experience the show promenade style, sitting or standing around the boardwalk’s central playing area. They’re encouraged to get up and move around, and the actors have a system in place to indicate when they are about to move into a space occupied by an audience member. It’s great fun whether you’re part of the boardwalk milieu or watching it from the risers and if you see the production multiple times, you’ll never get the exact same show twice. (Note: don’t get general admission tickets if you’re not prepared to change seats frequently and interact with the cast.)

The fun begins the moment you round the corner to the stage where Burch has built a new floor extending out over the Playhouse’s theatre seats. It’s somewhat similar to the way Stephen Dobay reconfigured The Broad Stage for The Hypocrites production of Our Town starring Helen Hunt in 2012 (which was terrific) but much more colorful.

The good-natured cast, directed by the company’s artistic director, Sean Graney, immediately indoctrinates you into the fun-loving atmosphere. They are a welcoming bunch, accompanying themselves on instruments like guitar, ukulele, clarinet, violin, spoons, and even a musical saw. Graney finds plentiful opportunities for humor in his playful approach and, in one particularly sly scene, he also uses the instruments to add to a joke.

Doug Pawlik
When Freddy (Doug Pawlik), a naïve but duty-bound pirate apprentice, meets Mabel (Dana Omar), a fetching young maid, the two fall instantly in love. The scene contains one of the show’s most popular songs, Poor wandring one sung by Mabel, and accompanied by Mabel on banjo and Freddy on guitar. Eventually, their infatuation leads them off-stage, though the song continues. Upon their return, the flushed pair has swapped instruments, and presumably a whole lot more, during their giddy romantic tryst. It’s a small but genius detail that merrily amplifies the subtext. Look for saucy touches like this throughout the show.

Adapted by Graney and his co-adaptor Kevin O’Donnell, the story stays true to the original but takes judicious liberties with its construct. We meet young Freddy on the day he believes he will be released from servitude to the pirates who took him in as a boy. The mix-up occurred when his nurse, Ruth, (also played by Omar) mistakenly apprenticed him to a group of pirates instead of pilots, as originally intended. What follows is a whimsical story of boy meets girl, pirates stealing daughters, police clashing with pirates, and a pardon in the name of Queen Victoria that grants a festive happy ending to all.

Pawlik is as fresh-faced as Omar is quirky. Matt Kahler gives a devilish spin to the buffoonery that is the Major-General and Shawn Pfatsch’s Pirate King is a congenial bad guy who’s really a pushover at heart. The absurd twists in the story provide hearty laughs, often prompted by choreographer Katie Spelman’s amusing moves.

Though the cast is precise in action and intent, the new theatre configuration isn’t always conducive to hearing every line. It’s a shame to miss any of the humor in Arthur Sullivans lyrics but when the party descends into a noisy free-for-all, it can’t be helped. Musical richness also comes second to comic effect but, in this setting, it doesn’t seem to matter. The gist of the story always comes through and the fun of the experience makes up for any artistic shortcomings. Go ready to jump into the silliness and you’re guaranteed to have a blast.

Should you need assistance at any time during the performance, just look for one of two stage managers roaming around the edges of the boardwalk decked out as lifeguards. It’s yet another comic touch, courtesy of costume designer Alison Siple, who gets the last meta-theatrical laugh.

January 23, 2018 - February 25, 2018
The Hypocrites at Pasadena Playhouse
39 South El Molino Avenue
Pasadena, CA 91101

Dana Omar as Ruth

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Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Review: A Volatile and Dangerous CABARET Invades La Mirada

Jeff Skowron as the Emcee (center) and the company of Cabaret.
All photos by Jason Niedle

Even if all they do is take the expected route, most productions of Kander & Ebb’s Cabaret are effective. Emphasize the sex and decadence rampant in Berlin during the end of the Weimar era as Hitler was coming into power and the show predictably succeeds in driving home its point – that distractions like the Kit Kat Klub helped people ignore what was happening politically until it was too late.

But that isn’t this Cabaret.

Everything about director Larry Carpenters blistering production of Cabaret is volatile in a way you’ve not seen before. An androgynous Emcee in face paint and a dress is familiar, but a tough guy Emcee in combat boots and a dress literally stalking the audience with every pounding step? That’s original. In this world, a knee through a chair isn’t just a choreographic move but a simulated sex act; a kick line isn’t beautiful but vicious; and a children’s song sung by a puppet isn’t innocent it’s horrific, rousing infantile listeners to almost demonic proportions.

No, a smiling musical theatre song and dance show, it isn’t. And because of that, this Cabaret is a bombshell – rough, harsh, enticing, and never more than one beat away from abject terror. It’s a musical for today’s populace who, like the Germans refusing to acknowledge their world was changing in the worst way possible, are seeing a political climate that looks eerily familiar to the 1930s. It’s a musical for people who don’t like musicals because it has something powerful to say and it says it loudly by awakening the rebellious streak in all of us. Yes, art can imitate life and, in doing so, call attention to issues we cannot and must not forget. There is no way you’ll miss the point of Cabaret.

Based on Charles Isherwood’s semi-autobiographical novel, Goodbye to Berlin, and its later stage adaptation by John Van Druten, I Am a Camera, it recounts Isherwood’s own experiences living in Berlin in the 1930s and the characters he meets there. Bert Convy played the writer in the original 1966 Broadway production, and the 1972 film version of the story starred a 30-year-old Michael York. The film also made Liza Minelli a star for her portrayal of nightclub singer Sally Bowles, and Joel Gray appeared as the Emcee both in the film and on Broadway, (in the original 1966 production and the 1987 revival).

Jeff Skowron and company

For McCoy Rigby, it is Jeff Skowron who anchors Cabaret as the Emcee. Well-known to Southern California audiences as an actor who digs deep for his roles, he is virtually unrecognizable, turning in a career-high performance that is unlike anyone you’ve seen do the role before, both in look and in attack. Dressed in an array of dual gender costume pieces (by David Kay Mickelsen) that fly in the face of anything close to convention, he represents more than simply the embodiment of all things sexual. There is a tangible sense of danger whenever he is on stage.

Carpenter uses that danger to the show’s advantage. Cabaret has two kinds of scenes – those that take place inside the illusory world of the Kit Kat Klub and those that happen outside in the real world (like the train station, Cliff’s apartment, Fräulein Schneider’s boarding house, and Herr Schultz’s fruit shop). For Carpenter’s staging, even the real life scenes occur within the metaphorical reaches of the club.

Scenic designer John Iacovelli creates a stunning optical illusion with a series of geometric frames set askew. Carpenter stages his club personnel to watch the real life scenes silently from the periphery, as if to say, in Germany, someone is always watching. This active observation has a chilling effect as we see them encroach more and more on the characters until everything reaches the tipping point. Josh Bessom’s sound design further emphasizes the change as air raid sirens and other loud intrusions become more frequent.

Skowron moves in and out of both worlds, playing several additional small but critical roles at turning points in the story. In the club he is bold and unfettered; in the real world contained and almost deadly still. The driving intensity in his performance reaches an emotional pinnacle in Act II’s “I Don’t Care Much,” which becomes not just a torch song but something more, a bitter acknowledgement of the reality beneath the illusion. There is a storm brewing in his tortured voice and, alone on stage under a single spotlight, the moment is electric (lighting by Steven Young).

Zarah Mahler as Sally Bowles

Zarah Mahler also attacks the role of Sally Bowles. Rather than the default ‘little girl lost in search of the next party’ you often see, she plays a more interesting side of her personality – that of a survivor, aware of the danger around her but sidestepping it as best she can. She’s still damaged but what is so unique about her performance is the way she expresses Sally’s pent-up rage in the only place she can – on stage when she’s performing. The progression of her frustration gives her an arc the character doesn’t usually have and a dynamic presence that leaves a lasting impression.

Even Fräulein Schneider (Kelly Lester) and Fräulein Kost (Erica Hanrahan-Ball), roles that can be throwaways in lesser hands, are infused with depth and insight. They are also women who have found a way to survive in a man’s world (a growing Nazi world) like Sally, but the cost is great. For Schneider, it means giving up her last chance at love with a kindly Jewish grocer (Jack Laufer) and for Kost, selling herself and selling out in order to scrape by.

Jack Laufer and Kelly Lester

Lester, a trained soprano, surprises by using her lower register to evoke a powerful range of emotions. Hanrahan-Ball is calculated, brittle, and the bullet the rest of the characters don’t see coming. Christian Pedersen (Cliff Bradshaw) learns that lesson the hard way.

Musically, it’s a hot show, thanks in part to the way musical director & conductor David O propels it forward with his band. They’re set upstage behind a curtain that flies up when they play and every time they appear, they come out guns blazing.

The score is a feisty mix of jazz and blues, warped vaudeville, and more traditional sounding musical theatre songs presented within the frame of German cabaret. Its sound was rougher than its French predecessor, smoky and low with a strong satirical bent in the material. This cast has the style down pat.

There is moment in the score when the instrumental unravels into a kind of cacophony that can best be described as a musical scream. When a musical director can make an image like that come to life as a reflection of what the characters are going through, you know you’re watching someone who understands how to use music as a powerful tool. It’s an art, people, and not everyone can do it. Few realize how important a musical director is to a production. This is an example of one of the finest.

Over and over again, Cabaret continues its grinding assault on your senses. Choreographer Dana Solimando fills her dance numbers with brash, overtly sensual, and sneakily comic moves. Her instincts are whip-smart, grounded, and her dancers execute every single one with unwavering precision.

January 19 – February 11, 2018
La Mirada Theatre for the Performing Arts
14900 La Mirada Blvd.
La Mirada, CA  90638

Jeff Skowron, Zarah Miller and company

Jeff Skowron and Kit Kat Klub dancers

Zarah Mahler (center) and dancers

The company of Cabaret

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Saturday, January 13, 2018

Review: The Gorgeous World of ALADDIN Comes to the Hollywood Pantages

Adam Jacobs as Aladdin. All photos by Deen van Meer

As Disney stage musicals go, the North American tour of Aladdin that just opened at the Hollywood Pantages Theatre is the big, splashy colorful delight kids and musical theatre lovers want to see. Dressed in a dizzying array of dazzle and glitz, it offers a top-of-the-line audience experience for fans of the beloved and well-known tale anxious to be whisked away to a dreamy world where the underdog gets the girl, the villain loses, and the comic relief holds court every time he steps on stage.

Few can resist the charms of Disney’s 1992 animated film that preceded it, based on One Thousand and One Nights. Its songs by Alan Menken, the late Howard Ashman, and Tim Rice, have become part of the enduring Disney/pop lexicon and, along with The Little Mermaid and Beauty and the Beast, it paved the way for a smarter, more independent kind of Disney princess.

In order to adapt Aladdin for the stage, a number of deviations from the movie plot had to be made, mainly to simplify the action. Gone is the first scene where Jafar tries to retrieve the lamp using a thief named Gazeem, as well as his attempt to drown Aladdin, and later banish him. Jafar doesn’t trap Jasmine and the others in an hourglass and he doesn’t turn into a giant cobra to fight Aladdin. These are all smart changes we don’t miss, but there are others we do.

Eliminating the animals – Aladdin’s pet monkey Abu, Jasmine’s tiger Rajah, and Jafar’s parrot Iago – and replacing them with human characters is a necessary logistical move but the results are mixed. In place of Abu, Aladdin gets three bubble-headed but energetic fellow thieves: Kassim (Mike Longo) the virile, not-so-smart one; Omar (Philippe Arroyo) the nervous effeminate one; and Babcock (Zach Bencal) the heavier, food-obsessed one. They add humor and sing well, particularly in their featured number “High Adventure” but they’re still all stereotypes. Rajah is replaced by a trio of nameless female attendants (Mary Antonini, Olivia Donalson, Annie Wallace) who are lovely but powerless, unlike the tiger. And in place of the greedy parrot Iago, we now have an annoying lackey (Reggie De Leon) who is such a cartoon it makes you wince. 

Happily, the trio of leading actors shines brightly. Adam Jacobs, who originated the title role on Broadway, easily wins over the audience with his insouciant charm, dashing good looks, and winning vocals. Expanding the story from the film’s 90 minutes to 2½ hours for the stage meant three of the songs Ashman originally wrote with Menken (cut from the film after he died) were restored. One of those is Aladdin’s heartfelt I Want song “Proud of Your Boy” which explains why he wants to make something more of himself, and it’s a gem.

Isabelle McCalla

As Princess Jasmine, Isabelle McCalla favors the character’s strong, no-nonsense, independent streak rather than playing the more obvious romantic yearnings of an inexperienced young woman. In doing so, the romance that eventually blossoms between she and Aladdin feels earned and not simply a foregone conclusion. As written, Jasmine and Aladdin could do with some fleshing out but McCalla and Jacobs add so much life to their roles, that you can’t help but fall in love with them.

Michael James Scott originated the role of Genie in Australia and he is the joyful one-man-show the audience can’t get enough of. It’s true that all roads lead to Rome and, while the musical starts out with some pretty snazzy numbers in Act I, it’s all leading up to Scott’s magnificent “Friend Like Me” at the end of the act. Another of the songs featuring lyrics by Ashman, this one is built to be a showstopper and stop the show it does. Offering up verse after verse of fabulous (and hilarious) reasons why Aladdin has just won the genie lottery, Scott lets loose with an endless stream of pop culture, musical theatre, and Disney references, attacking the number with gusto. The setting has just as much to do with the wow factor of the song as the music and choreography, and Bob Crowley’s cave interior is a floor-to-ceiling sparkling surprise with more than a few fun reveals.

Michael James Scott

Up until this point, the scenic design has been more compact but both this and his later rendering of Jasmine’s bedroom window and magic carpet ride through a spellbinding night sky are glorious. Aided by Natasha Katz’s gasp-inducing stars and Jim Steinmeyer’s flying carpet illusion, it satisfies every possible romantic notion as Aladdin and Jasmine sing “A Whole New World” and we finally see them fall in love.

This is a musical the whole family can enjoy and director/choreographer Casey Nicholaw knows it and owns it. The pacing is tight, musicianship impeccable (under the baton of musical director Brent-Alan Huffman), and dance numbers athletically executed by an unusually handsome ensemble of dancers flashing swords, tossing silks, and investing themselves one hundred per cent in creating the fairy tale world of Agrabah. Disney has pulled out all the stops for this gorgeous musical. Go for the magic and you won’t be disappointed.

Isabelle McCalla and Adam Jacobs

January 10 - March 31, 2018
Hollywood Pantages
6233 Hollywood Boulevard
Los Angeles, 90028

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Wednesday, January 10, 2018

MUSICAL NEWS: Get Your Year Started Right with these Marvelous Musicals!

2018 is going to be a great year for musicals in Southern California so mark your calendars now and Ill see you at the theater!

Isabelle McCalla and Adam Jacobs in Aladdin. Photo by Deen van Meer

Aladdin – Hollywood Pantages
Jan 10 – March 31, 2018
The Hollywood Pantages Theatre begins 2018 with Disney’s Aladdin, a big, bright musical for the whole family starring original Broadway cast members Adam Jacobs as Aladdin and Michael James Scott as the Genie. Get ready to take a magical carpet ride into an exotic world of daring adventure, classic comedy and timeless romance in this new production featuring a full score, including the five cherished songs from the Academy Award-winning soundtrack and more, written especially for the stage. Hollywoodpantages.com/aladdin

Cabaret – La Mirada Theatre for the Performing Arts
Jan 19 – Feb 11, 2018
La Mirada Theatre for the Performing Arts opens its 40th anniversary season with Kander & Ebb’s Cabaret, directed by Larry Carpenter. Starring Jeff Skowron as The Emcee, Zarah Mahler as Sally Bowles, and Christian Pedersen as Clifford Bradshaw, and featuring musical direction by David O and choreography by Dana Solimando, its story is more relevant today than ever before. The seedy glamour of the Kit Kat Club with its bawdy Emcee provide an unsettling but fitting backdrop to the tale of the hard-living entertainer Sally Bowles in the decadent nightlife of Germany in the early thirties. LaMiradaTheatre.com/cabaret

Candide – LA Opera

Jan 27 – Feb 18, 2018
Kelsey Grammer and Christine Ebersole star in Leonard Bernstein’s funny, satirical whirlwind tour of human folly and foolishness. Brimming with youthful innocence, Candide is certain he lives in the best of all possible worlds. But an unrelenting series of ridiculously unfortunate events makes him question everything he has been taught. Kelsey Grammer takes on the delightful double role of satirical author Voltaire and optimistic philosopher Pangloss, with two-time Tony Award winner Christine Ebersole in the riotous role of the Old Lady. Bernstein’s brilliant score features some of musical theater’s greatest hits, from its exuberant overture, to the show-stopping “Glitter and Be Gay.” More info: www.laopera.org

The Hypocrites’ Pirates Of Penzance at Arizona Repertory Theatre
courtesy of The Hypocrites

Pirates of Penzance – Pasadena Playhouse
Jan 23 – Feb 18, 2018
Pasadena Playhouse turns its theater into a wacky beach party for Gilbert and Sullivan’s Pirates of Penzance, as reimagined by the Chicago theatre hooligans, The Hypocrites. For the first time in its history, the Playhouse will be completely transformed into a new configuration. All of the orchestra seats will be removed, and in their place there will be a deck, making the entire orchestra level of the theatre a playing area with actors and audience sharing the space promenade style. Expect flying beach balls, rubber duckies, ukuleles, banjos, plastic swimming pools, and even a tiki bar, for a night you won’t forget as Frederic, an orphan mistakenly apprenticed to an ineffectual but raucous band of pirates, disavows the pirates’ way of life and falls for the beautiful Mabel. Adapted and directed by Sean Graney, co-adapted by Kevin O’Donnell, and featuring music direction by Andra Velis Simon. www.pasadenaplayhouse.org

Million Dollar Quartet – 3-D Theatricals
Feb 9 –18 (Redondo Beach Performing Arts Center)
Feb 23 – March 4 (Cerritos Center for the Performing Arts)
David Lober directs the 3DT production which goes back to when Sam Phillips, the “Father of Rock ‘n’ Roll” who launched the careers of Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins and Elvis Presley, brought the four superstars together at the Sun Records studio for the first and only time, in what became known as one of the greatest jam sessions in rock ‘n’ roll history. Starring Cole as Elvis Presley, John Countryman as Jerry Lee Lewis, David Elkins as Johnny Cash, and Michael Monroe Goodman as Carl Perkins, this one is sure to get the house rockin’. 3dtheatricals.org/milliondollar

Allegiance – East West Players
Feb 21 – April 1, 2018
George Takei will be joined by Broadway cast members Elena Wang (Kei Kimura), Greg Watanabe (Mike Masaoka), Scott Watanabe (Tatsuo Kimura), and Janelle Dote (Hanako) for the LA premiere of Allegiance, produced by East West Players and Japanese American Cultural & Community Center. The production is directed by Snehal Desai with musical direction by Marc Macalintal and choreography by Rumi Oyama and performances will take place at JACCC’s Aratani Theatre. With gorgeous music and lyrics by Jay Kuo and a book by Marc Acito, Jay Kuo, and Lorenzo Thione, Allegiance tells the story of the Kimura family, whose lives are upended when they and 120,000 other Japanese Americans are forced to leave their homes following the events of Pearl Harbor. This is definitely a don’t-miss production. EastWestPlayers.org

Dessa Rose – Chromolume Theatre
Feb 2 – 25, 2018
Chromolume Theatre’s first production of 2018 will be Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flhery’s Dessa Rose. James Esposito directs and the show will feature musical direction by Daniel Yokomizo and choreography by Michael Marchak. Dessa Rose is the story of a young black runaway slave (Shauntee Tabb) and a white abandoned mother (Abby Carlson) and their journey to acceptance in the antebellum South as they tell their story to their grandchildren. www.crtheatre.com

Daddy Long Legs – International City Theatre
Feb 21 – March 11, 2018
This two-hander by Paul Gordon and John Caird transforms Jean Webster’s novel into a charming and poignant musical that tells the story of Jerusha Abbott, an 18 year old young woman who has grown up at the John Grier Home for orphans. When a trustee of the home reads one of her essays and sees promise in her writing, he offers to send her to college to continue her education. His only requirements are that she must write him monthly letters, even though he will not write her back, and that she will never know his identity. Jerusha’s heartwarming journey to independence, education and romance is a journey every woman can understand. If you’re looking for the secret of happiness, you just may find it in this lovely musical. ICTLongbeach.org

Violet – Chance Theater
Feb 2 – March 4, 2018
Set in the Deep South during the early days of the civil rights movement, this powerful musical by Jeanine Tesori tells the touching story of a young woman accidentally scarred on the face as a child. Hoping that a TV evangelist can cure her, Violet sets out on a long bus ride from her sleepy North Carolina town through Memphis to Oklahoma. Along the way, she meets two young soldiers who teach her about love, courage and the true meaning of beauty. Use online code “POKER” for 20% off tickets. Discount expires February 1st. Good for any performance before February 19, except opening. ChanceTheater.com

High Society – Musical Theatre Guild
Feb 11, 2018
Up next for Musical Theatre Guild is High Society, the 1956 musical film adaption of Philip Barry’s sparkling stage play The Philadelphia Story, which starred Grace Kelly, Bring Crosby and Frank Sinatra. The plot centers on pretentious socialite, Tracy Samantha Lord, who is planning to wed an equally pretentious executive when her ex-husband arrives to disrupt all her plans. AlexTheatre.org/highsociety

Earhart: More Than A F-ing Mystery (A Musical Flight)
Feb 18 & 20, 2018
An original musical comedy by Manny Hagopian, this 50 minute show is the little known story of Amelia Earhart. For 50 years, Earhart has been known as only an unexplained mystery, but she was, and is, much more than that - especially today. Earhart delivers the story of a proud, kickass girl, who set out to change the world and to prove once and for all that she is more than an f-ing mystery. www.Rockwell-LA.com  

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