Archive for Broadway

Electrifying “Fela!” returns for two weeks – Los Angeles theater review

Photo by Carol Rosegg.

Photo by Carol Rosegg.

The Broadway musical Fela! is the true story of Nigerian musician Fela Kuti, who created a new type of music, Afrobeat, and mixed these pounding eclectic rhythms with incendiary lyrics that openly attacked oppressive military dictatorships that ruled Nigeria and much of Africa. His songs of rebellion were an inspiration to millions.

Fela! has returned to the Ahmanson Theatre in Downtown LA for two weeks only!  The show features a superbly talented cast, including Michelle Williams of Destiny’s Child fame. Info below.

 Previously reviewed:

Pounding rhythms, colorful tribal costumes, exquisitely light and authentic African choreography, visually stunning staging and politically charged lyrics – Fela! is a biographical funk concert musical that is not to be missed! Add a charismatic and gifted performer as the central subject (Adesola Osakalumi plays Fela Kuti) and you have an exhilarating night of music and drama that will imprint on your memory for years to come.

Conceived by Bill T. Jones, Jim Lewis and Stephen Hendel, and directed, choreographed and orchestrated by Bill T. Jones, the Broadway musical Fela! brings riveting portions of the life story of this highly influential singer, songwriter, performer and political activist to the stage. The central character of Fela Kuti is surrounded by a large cast of musicians, singers and dancers – in real life many of the latter became Kuti’s wives in order to tour with him.

Nigerian musician Fela Kuti was known for his showmanship and political activism. His elaborate concerts were apparently often quite outlandish and wild, with scores of musicians and dancers on stage, giving audiences an experience like no other.

Presented like a live concert, we the audience are occasionally directly addressed by Kuti as if we were his fans attending a performance at his own venue in Nigeria called ‘The Shrine’. Mimicking the call-and-response nature of many of Kuti’s powerful songs, he even sits down to chat directly with us, polling the audience to reveal their own brushes with the law. (Along with his family and followers, Kuti was frequently persecuted by the law for his outspoken lyrics and activism.)

Backstory:

The late great Fela Anikulapo Kuti, (15 October 1938 — 2 August 1997), whose real name was Olufela Olusegun Oludotun Ransome-Kuti, was the pioneer of Afrobeat music. He was a Nigerian multi-instrumentalist musician and composer, human rights activist and political maverick. His mother, Funmilayo Ransome-Kuti was an aristocrat and a feminist activist in the anti-colonial movement. (His father, Reverend Israel Oludotun Ransome-Kuti, a Protestant minister and school principal, was the first president of the Nigerian Union of Teachers.)

 

Played brilliantly by the operatically trained Melanie Marshall, Mama Kuti features in this show to great effect. Her voice thrillingly soars to fantastic heights during her two show-stopping songs. This is, quite fittingly, a hagiographical presentation of her story (complete with spooky animated projected portrait and a magical halo-effect) and it’s clear she had a major influence on her son’s important legacy. What happened to her is appalling and heartbreaking. Bill T. Jones pulls no punches when presenting details of the atrocities handed out to Kuti’s followers and the Nigerian people, including some distressing news footage that amounts to murder captured on film. It’s heavy stuff, but well-tempered by the life and soul of the outstanding music.

 

Further backstory:

Kuti was a human-rights revolutionary who started his own political party, Movement Of The People, to protest the kleptocracy in Nigeria. He had his own compound called the Kalakuta Republic, in Lagos, which he declared independent from Nigeria, where he and his uncountable number of wives lived, and were constantly terrorized by the government. His influence on funk and African music is unsurpassed with approximately 77 albums.

The musical style performed by Fela Kuti is called Afrobeat, which is essentially a fusion of jazz, funk, psychedelic rock, and traditional African chants and rhythms. It is characterized by having African-style percussion, vocals, and musical structure, along with jazzy, funky horn sections. The endless groove is also used, in which a base rhythm of drums, shekere, muted guitar, and bass guitar are repeated throughout the song. His band was notable for featuring two baritone saxophones, whereas most groups using this instrument only use one. This is a common technique in African and African-influenced musical styles, and can be seen in funk and hip-hop. Some elements often present in Fela’s music are the call-and-response within the chorus and figurative but simple lyrics. Fela’s songs were almost always over 10 minutes in length, some reaching the 20- or even 30-minute marks, while some unreleased tracks would last up to 45 minutes when performed live. His songs were mostly sung in Nigerian pidgin, although he also performed a few songs in the Yoruba language. Fela’s main instruments were the saxophone and the keyboards, but he also played the trumpet, guitar, and took the occasional drum solo.

 

Fela! completely transforms that stuffy old barn called the Ahmanson Theatre into an Afrikan rave club. Despite some unfocussed storytelling within the second act, this show remains a triumphant tale of courage, passion and love, and an invigorating and true story of a legendary musician whose upbeat and catchy songs of rebellion were an inspiration to millions.

RUN – GO – SEE THIS show ASAP – it’s super incredible.

Photos by Carol Rosegg.

Photos by Carol Rosegg.

Photos by Carol Rosegg.

Fela!

Ahmanson Theatre

at the Music Center in Downtown L.A.

135 N. Grand Ave. at Temple St.,

L.A. CA 90012

Performances:

Now through May 5, 2013.

Tuesday through Friday at 8 p.m.;

Saturday at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m.;

Sunday at 1 p.m. and 6:30 p.m.

***No Monday performances***

Running time:

Approximately 2 hours and 45 minutes, including a 20 minute intermission

TICKETS:

$20 – $120 (Ticket prices are subject to change.)

Box Office:

Tickets are available by calling Center Theatre Group Audience Services at (213) 972-4400, in person at the Center Theatre Group box office or on-line here.

Hot Tix: $20 each may be purchased in advance or, subject to availability, on the day of performance at the box office (no checks).

Groups: (213) 972-7231. Deaf community: Information & charge, TDD (213) 680-4017.

 

“West Side Story” returns to the Pantages in April – Los Angeles musical theater review

WSS - at the dance - photo by Joan Marcus

photo by Joan Marcus

::STOP PRESS::

West Side Story returns to the Pantages Theatre, Hollywood

One Week Only ∙ April 9—14, 2013

Possibly the greatest musical ever created, WEST SIDE STORY – a modern version of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet set on the mean streets of New York during the turbulent fifties – will play at the Pantages Theatre in Hollywood from April 9—14, 2013.

WEST SIDE STORY features Addison Reid Coe as Tony, Mary Joanna Grisso as Maria, Michelle Alves as Anita, Theo Lencicki as Riff and Andrés Acosta as Bernardo.

Rounding out the current company of WEST SIDE STORY are Amber Ardolino, Yesenia Ayala, Lauren Cannon, Konrad Case, Blue Cervini, Max Chucker, Mark Deler, Erika Hebron, Dan Higgins, Matthew Krob, Greg London, Guy Mandia Jr, Thomas Mothershed, Louie Napoleon,Thaddeus Pearson, Josh Pins, Anthony Raimondi, J. Nycole Ralph, Tory Ramirez, Bridget Riley, Ricardo Rique-Sanchez, Arianna Rosario, Carolina Sanchez, Michael Shultz, Jeff M. Smith,Tony Thomas, Juan Torres-Falcon and Laura Volpacchio.

 
Previously reviewed:

An exceptional musical, with a gifted young cast and experienced orchestra, fantastic staging and – of course – incredible choreography, this production is handsomely presented and full of vitality, grace and passion.

WSS the women of the Sharks - photo by Joan Marcus

photo by Joan Marcus

Boasting soaring music by Leonard Bernstein, tender lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, gripping story and book by Arthur Laurents, and brilliant and ground-breaking choreography by Jerome Robbins, here is a case where the confluence of exceptional talents created magic; West Side Story is “lightning in a bottle.”

The current production at the Pantages Theatre is an electrifying and faithful re-staging of Arthur Laurents’ original Broadway production, with direction by David Saint, using the original stunning choreography by Jerome Robbins, here reproduced by Joey McKneely and his talented cast.

Who else but Robbins could choreograph tough street gangs who dance to express their angst, frustration and ferocious rivalry? When have you ever seen the expression of repressed anger through a pirouette? The iconic song “Cool” distills this idea and succinctly presents it with such heat, passion and explosion of pent-up energy, it virtually leaps off the stage. And when the orchestra let loose with some of those memorable melodies – especially the vibrant brass section – it is thrilling to experience live.

WWS - the Jets - photo by Joan Marcus

photo by Joan Marcus

The young cast is exceptionally good in this bi-lingual production. (Remarkably, the Puerto Ricans speak amongst themselves in Spanish and Lin-Manuel Miranda, of In The Heights fame, was hired to re-work and infuse the bi-racial story with actual Spanish into the text and music.) But it doesn’t matter if you don’t speak Spanish – you can still understand exactly what’s going on during these scenes.

WSS - Tony and Maria  - photo by Joan Marcus

photo by Joan Marcus

Portraying the powerful love story is Tony (Addison Reid Coe) gives a strong performance) and a delightfully talented Maria (Mary Joanna Grisso) who brings a youthful innocence and sweetness to her performance, along with a pure and soaring voice that is more than up to the challenges of this role. Michelle Alves gives a gutsy depth to her performance as the sassy Anita, Maria’s best friend and more-or-less her sister-in-law. Andrés Acosta exudes arrogance and sex-appeal and is impressive as Puerto-Rican gang leader Bernardo, who rules ‘The Sharks’. Another favorite character is Anybodys, the kicked-around tomboy who yearns to be part of the all-guy gang, ‘The Jets.’ For the magical song “Somewhere”* she gives an exquisite rendition during the gorgeous, dream-ballet sequence in Act 2 that makes good use of vibrantly back-lit silhouette and elegant staging. During this utopian scene, the gangs unite in harmony.

The gorgeous costumes are designed by David C. Woolard – not just for the sneaker-and jeans-clad gangs but the outfits they all wear to the school dance, but also the outfits that help us delineate between the two gangs. Additionally, these kids have to execute some pretty challenging dance moves while wearing these costumes! Then there’s the fantastic industrial and minimal sets by scenic designer James Youman that rate a mention. Not only does Youman effectively conjure up the old tenement housing of New York, with its fire escapes and shabby brickwork, but also huge set pieces glide on and off stage with seemingly little effort. A show-stopper is the large cloth or set piece that flies in upstage when the two gangs congregate under the freeway for their rumble, just before the close of Act 1. It feels exactly like being in the movie theater that day when you saw Star Wars for the first time and during the opening moments that massive spaceship flies overhead for the longest time. When that freeway set piece flies in upstage, and the chain link fence flies in downstage, your jaw drops. It’s impressive stuff.

It’s important to note that when this musical was created during the fifties, only Jerome Robbins was known. Sondheim was a newcomer, as was Bernstein (relatively speaking). Laurents’ Broadway career was patchy.

Backstory from Wikipedia:

In 1949, Jerome Robbins approached Leonard Bernstein and Arthur Laurents about collaborating on a contemporary musical adaptation of Romeo and Juliet. He proposed that the plot focus on the conflict between an Italian American Roman Catholic family and a Jewish family living on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, during the Easter-Passover season. The girl has survived the Holocaust and emigrated from Israel; the conflict was to be centered around anti-Semitism of the Catholic “Jets” towards the Jewish “Emeralds” (a name that made its way into the script as a reference).

Eager to write his first musical, Laurents immediately agreed. Bernstein wanted to present the material in operatic form, but Robbins and Laurents resisted the suggestion. They described the project as “lyric theatre,” and Laurents wrote a first draft he called East Side Story. Only after he completed it did the group realize it was little more than a musicalization of themes that had already been covered in plays like Abie’s Irish Rose. When he opted to drop out, the three men went their separate ways, and the piece was shelved for almost five years. When the project resumed, Robbins went on to win a Tony award for his choreography in 1957. Along with Robert Wise, Robbins co-directed the movie version, which won a staggering ten of its eleven nominations, including the Oscar for Best Picture in 1961.

This current staging of West Side Story – being the national touring company of the new Broadway production – has everything you could want from a night of musical theater. West Side Story is a legendary classic for good reason. Do not miss this show!

*BTW – It was the character of Consuelo (in the role originated and performed by Reri Grist) who sang the beautiful ballad “Somewhere” in the original 1957 stage production. Go here to hear her sing this exquisite song.

WEST SIDE STORY

Pantages Theatre

6233 Hollywood Boulevard
Los Angeles, CA 90028-5310
(323) 468-1770

Performances:

April 9—14, 2013.

Tuesday through Friday at 8pm;

Saturday at 2pm & 8pm;

Sundays at 1pm & 6:30pm

 

Tickets:

$45.00–250.00 (not including fees)

Select tickets available for $32.00 (meaning $25.00, plus $7.00 fee)

Tickets for WEST SIDE STORY may be purchased online here or here or by phone at 1-800-982-2787.

Tickets may also be purchased in person at the Pantages Box Office and all Ticketmaster outlets.

The Pantages Theatre is located at 6233 Hollywood Boulevard, just east of Vine Street, and the box office opens daily at 10am except for holidays.

 

 

 

Review by Pauline Adamek

“The Drowsy Chaperone” – Arcadia Performing Arts Center – 3-21 through 3-23 – Los Angeles theater report

Anthony Nappier & Janessa Floyd. Photo credit: Elaine Conrad.

Anthony Nappier & Janessa Floyd. Photo credit: Elaine Conrad.

“The Drowsy Chaperone,” – the highly entertaining Tony® Award winning musical – is coming to the glamorous new Arcadia Performing Arts Center for three nights only, Thursday March 21 through Saturday March 23.

Audiences are in for an evening of hilarity, great songs, great dancing, and loads of fun.

About the stunning new venue:

            The Arcadia Performing Arts Center is a new $20,000,000 state-of-the-art facility with 1,200 seats situated on the campus of Arcadia High School. It is the realization of a dream several decades in the making, that Arcadia should have and enjoy a first-rate performing arts facility. It is the one of the largest such facilities situated on a secondary school campus in the Southland. It includes over two-dozen accessible seats for the differently abled patrons.

Now, the new Arcadia Performing Arts Center will host a new production of the 2006 hit Broadway musical “The Drowsy Chaperone,” which won Tony Awards for its writers Bob Martin and Dan McKellar and composer-lyricists Lisa Lambert and Greg Morrison.

About the musical:

Liam Swan. Photo credit: Elaine Conrad.

Liam Swan. Photo credit: Elaine Conrad.

A reclusive fellow sitting on a chair in his apartment selects a treasured 1928 musical comedy record from his collection and, when it plays on his turntable, the action of his favorite show “The Drowsy Chaperone” magically appears on stage for the audience to see. Beautiful Broadway star Janet is about to retire from the theatre to marry her true love, wealthy oil tycoon Robert. But her producer and some of his investors (gangsters from The Mob) want to break up the planned wedding in a bid to get Janet to return to the stage. The producer, Feldzieg, sends a seducer, Adolpho, to attempt to woo Janet. He mistakenly tries to tempt her chaperone instead (The Drowsy—actually tipsy—Chaperone of the title). Janet, testing Robert, pretends to be a French girl, Mimi, and gets him to kiss “Mimi” while he is blindfolded. This alienates her.

Will the wedding be canceled after all, or will true love ultimately prevail? “The Drowsy Chaperone” is a spoof of classic Broadway musicals and, in keeping with the spirit of the piece, many of the show’s numerous characters will be pairing up and planning to marry— just in case you doubt that there would be a happy ending.

This musical production is cast with students from the Theatre Arts Department of Arcadia High School, including (in alphabetical order) Alana DeBlase, Janessa Floyd, Keith Harmel, Kristine Price, David Liu, Anthony Nappier, Cassie Nichols and Liam Swan.

 Steven Volpe directs. A graduate of Cal State Fullerton, Volpe has been producer and technical director for fifteen productions at Arcadia High. Also an actor, he has performed in plays and musicals throughout Southern California as well as on episodic television series.

Arcadia Performing Arts Center has partnered with several area businesses to present this production, including Rose Hills, as well as the Huntington Ave. restaurants, including Denny’s (where tickets can be conveniently purchased) and the Derby.

The Chaperone may be drowsy, but you won’t be. You’ll be laughing, applauding and cheering.

Photo credit: Elaine Conrad.

Liam Swan (l), Alana DeBlase and Keith Harmel. Photo credit: Elaine Conrad.

Liam Swan (l), Alana DeBlase and Keith Harmel. Photo credit: Elaine Conrad.

“The Drowsy Chaperone”

Arcadia Performing Arts Center,

on the campus of Arcadia High School

180 Campus Drive,

Arcadia, CA 91007

Performances:

Thursday, March 217:00 PM

Friday, March 227:00 PM

Saturday, March 234:00 PM.

TICKETS:

General – $15.00

Students and seniors – $10.00

VIP – $25.00  (Includes priority seating selection and no waiting in the General Admission line).

PHONE: (626) 836-9100

Online Ticketing here.

Estimated Running Time:   Two & a half hours (of fun!)

This is a sponsored Post.

For more information on sponsored posts, please get in touch with the author via the Contact page.

 

David Liu and Cassie Nickles. Photo credit: Elaine Conrad.

David Liu and Cassie Nickles. Photo credit: Elaine Conrad.

 

 

Rockwell Table and Stage dining

Photo credit – Joanna Strapp.

Not only is the hottest stage show in town now in its last days – For The Record: Scorsese but the food they serve at this cozy little supper club is well worth the visit.

Tucked away in Los Feliz is Rockwell: Table & Stage, intimate supper and performance venue that has a great new American menu and killer cocktails that complement their unique and sensational stage show.

Closing this weekend is For The Record: Scorsese, a feisty, fast-paced and foul-mouthed production featuring songs and short scenes from an assortment of movies directed by Martin Scorsese. Broadway stars and songbirds kick it on stage and keep their performance skills primed in this slick, stylish and lively show.

Coming up in December is their brand new show that celebrates the movies of John Hughes, “For The Record: John Hughes (Holiday Road)” which will showcase signature songs and moments from John Hughes’ classics such as The Breakfast Club, Sixteen Candles, Pretty In Pink, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, Weird Science and Hughes’ holiday favorites Home Alone, Christmas Vacation and Planes, Trains & Automobiles.

Performances run Thursday, December 6th  through Sunday, December 30, 2012.

About the restaurant.

Firstly, the room is chic and dimly lit – in a good way. It’s a great place for a romantic date or a night out with friends. Dotted around the large room are round tables – some raised cocktail ones – and booths. The room has a bright and fun energy without being too cacophonous.

The show actually kicks off around 8.30pm. There are several raised platforms as stage areas throughout the dining room, including a catwalk in front of the live band. The performers scoot all over the venue, sometimes even standing on the bar counter, belting out the songs with high energy.

The servers are all clad in black; the waiters wear white bowties and the bussers do not, which creates a nice distinction for who you should ask for another cocktail.

My guy loved his cocktail – the Van Brunt – which was Aviator gin, cointreau, cucumber and maybe dill? “It’s just like getting messed up on fresh cucumber!” he grinned.

This photo (only) by Pauline Adamek.

Starters include the usual suspects such as Tortilla Chips, Guacamole, Pico De Gallo, but the chef mixes it up with seasonal fare such as Silver Dollar Pumpkin Pancakes.

The menu at Rockwell: Table & Stage was recently revamped to present a range of classic American dishes ranging from Crab Cakes to Lobster Devilled Eggs (starters  – both were delicious!) and mains such as Prime Rib Pork chop and Braised Beef Short Ribs – again, the dishes we sampled and loved. The Pork chop was substantial and the Braised Beef Short Ribs were meltingly fabulous. All appetizer portions are sufficiently substantial and hearty without being overwhelming.

Quick backtrack on our starters. According to my companion, the Crab Cakes were “fantastic,” and he’s not easily pleased.  They came in a rich, ruby red tomato sauce that was sprinkled with cubes of avocado. You may have to ask for a spoon or some bread to mop up the delicious sauce… A neat row of Lobster Devilled Eggs each came cunningly nested on a clump of light alfalfa sprouts, which I haven’t seen since the 80s! Best of all, the lobster flavor was in the forefront.

All-American side dishes include skillet-served (read: piping hot) mac ‘n’ cheese, capt ‘n’ crunch onion rings and silky pureed sweet potato.

Go here for a peek at their menu.

 

Photos by Joanna Strapp.

Click here to read my review of For The Record: Scorsese.

Photo credit – Joanna Strapp.

Rockwell: Table & Stage

1714 N. Vermont
Los Angeles, CA 90027

*** Turn down Kingswell Ave, just north of Prospect Ave, and then turn right down the alley to find the valet and entrance***

Guests are encouraged to arrive early and enjoy Rockwell: Table & Stage cuisine and cocktails. There is a two-item minimum.

LATE SEATING POLICY:

All tickets and reservations are released at scheduled showtime.

TICKETS:

Range from $20—40.00, with an additional processing fee of $2.20—3.40.

PURCHASE here.

For additional information, please call (323) 661-6163 ext. 20.

*** PAY-WHAT-YOU-CAN THURSDAYS for FOR THE RECORD: SCORSESE ***

Rockwell: Table & Stage is excited to offer a “pay-what-you-can” night this Thursday for For the Record: Scorsese run.

If you’re interested in reserving a “pay-what-you-can” ticket, email [email protected] There is a $10 suggested minimum, and you must receive a confirmation to be able to take advantage of the “pay-what-you-can” offer. Subject to availability. *2 item minimum purchase*

“For The Record: John Hughes (Holiday Road)”  will perform Thursday, December 6 through Sunday, December 30, 2012.

For Reservations
(Dining Only)
Call (323) 669-1550 or Click Here

For Show Tickets
(Dining Included)
Email: [email protected] or Click Here

 

Photo credit – Joanna Strapp.

 

 

“Memphis” at Pantages — LA musical theater review

Production photos by Paul Kolnik.

Kicking off with a frenetic pace that never lets up, Memphis is a high energy, original musical about the explosion of black musical artists into the mainstream during the late 1950s.

The winner of Four 2010 Tony Awards® including Best Musical, and composed by David Bryan (music and lyrics) and Joe DiPietro (lyrics and book), the plot loosely follows the saga of a Memphis radio personality Dewey Phillips, who was one of the first white DJs to play black records during the 1950s. The musical style of the numerous songs ranges from classic (early) rock, through gospel and rhythm and blues tunes.

Set during the last decades of segregation in the deep south, the musical begins with Huey Calhoun (Bryan Fenkart), a white fellow who dares to venture into Delray’s, an underground rock ’n’ roll bar in a black neighborhood in 1950′s Memphis. Equal parts annoyingly persistent and goofily charming, Huey manages to convince the hostile regulars to let him stay and listen to the music. We follow Huey’s enthusiastic career trajectory as he finds opportunities to play black records and ignite the enthusiasm of music-hungry teenagers. Before long Huey is doing what he loves – playing ‘race music’ on a chart-topping (white) radio show. He tentatively forges a forbidden romance with a talented singer Felicia (Felicia Boswell), promising to make her a recording star. But his own talent for self-sabotage threatens their future happiness.

While the characters never rise above hastily sketched caricatures and clichés, this race-relations storyline is mostly a cheesy, feel-good romance although there are flashes of the terror of those times, such as the unchecked (condoned) violence by white supremacists against blacks for perceived violations. The central character of Huey is goofy and fun but also corny and unlikeable, particularly during his numerous episodes when his flair for unconventional behavior turns destructive and dangerous.

Tissue-light songs are fun and upbeat, but neither hooky nor memorable; act one tunes have dissolved by intermission. The first really good song occurs early on – the suggestive “Scratch that itch” – and proves a highlight thanks to the acrobatic dance moves, with dancers literally bouncing off the floor and counter-tops. (Choreography is by Sergio Trujillo.)

Unfortunately there is a histrionic pitch to the performances from the large and talented cast who really need to ramp their energy down and settle into a rhythm.

Felicia Boswell as our endearing heroine Felicia has a knockout vocal range and style, bringing the house down time and again with her killer singing voice. All the key secondary characters surprise us with their own songs.

All in all, Memphis is a lively and entertaining musical, but not a memorable one.

 

Production photos by Paul Kolnik.

 

Production photos by Paul Kolnik.

Memphis

Pantages Theatre

6233 Hollywood Boulevard,

Hollywood CA

(just east of Vine Street)

Performances:

Runs for limited 2-week engagement, July 31 – August 12, 2012. 

Running time:

Approximately 2 & ½ hours, including a 20-minute intermission.

TICKETS:

$31.00—140.00

Box Office:

Purchase tickets here or by phone at 1-800-982-2787.