Archive for Michael Matthews

“Wolves” – at Celebration Theatre – Los Angeles theater review

 Photo Credit: Matthew Brian Denman.

Photo Credit: Matthew Brian Denman.

A gripping, disturbing and darkly funny study in psychosis, Steve Yockey’s latest play, Wolves, subverts your expectations at every turn. The play opens as the audience is seated. A young guy is strumming his guitar and singing some sweet duets with a pretty gal, seemingly by a campfire – or is it really a woodpile embedded with an axe?

The young woman looks chic – perhaps too stylishly dressed for a campfire sing-along. She starts to make foreboding comments that unnerve the guy. She’s playfully messing with his mind. Something’s not right…

The woman (played by Katherine Skelton) begins to narrate the play with a snotty, supercilious tone. She describes how our hero Ben (played by Nathan Mohebbi) was always a bit of an outsider in his small home town, but when he came to live in the city found he was even more alone. Ben didn’t know how to be alone, isolated in the big creepy city, she observes. “This isn’t a pretty story,” she warns us.

It’s spooky stuff.

We learn about Ben’s roommate Jack (Matthew Magnusson), an opportunistic fellow who is still crashing at Ben’s place even though their love affair has cooled. Ben and Jack begin to argue after Ben detects Jack creeping out to hang out at pick up bars. Cheerful yet anxious, Ben equates the city with a forest, full of dangers. Jack counters that he’s a hunter. Indeed, he’s on the prowl.

Ben seems overly fearful – or is he? What will happen when Jack brings a sexy ‘wolf’ (played by Andrew Crabtree) back to the apartment?

The narrator jumps in from time to time and is seen to be filling Ben’s head with whispered fears. It transpires that she is his neurotic inner voice. Eventually a torrent of anxiety pours out of Ben – something is definitely not right…

Wolves manages to be both disquieting and full of black comedy at the same time. Director Michael Matthews deftly negotiates the shifting tones throughout Steve Yockey’s eerie one-act, 70-minute drama. Working with scenic designer Kaitlyn Pietras, Matthews has laid out the stage with tape markings on the floor, delineating bedrooms in the same fashion as an architectural blueprint. It’s an intriguing staging approach that pays off.

Worth seeing.

Photo Credit: Matthew Brian Denman.

 Photo Credit: Matthew Brian Denman.

Photo Credit: Matthew Brian Denman.


Celebration Theatre

7051B Santa Monica Blvd.,

Hollywood CA

Runs through Sunday, May 5, 2013


Thursday, Fridays and Saturdays at 8pm

Sundays at 2pm.

Tickets: $30.00.

Box Office:

Please call (323) 957-1884

Visit their official site to purchase tickets online or to view a complete schedule or for further details.




Justin Love – playing at Celebration Theatre – Los Angeles theater review

PHOTO CREDIT: Michael Lamont.


Justin Love

has been extended through SUNDAY, DECEMBER 16, 2012

Fresh and fun, the marvelous new musical about gay closet-life in Hollywood, Justin Love, was eight years in development, and the dedication shows. The storyline is sweet and not-too-predictable, the songs are snappy, upbeat and enjoyable and the direction and staging by Michael Matthews is fluid. While it could be read as a sly dig at a certain high profile actor who adamantly refuses to ‘come out,’ the plot is far more interesting and original than easy satire. Sure, it does poke fun at certain Hollywood archetypes – opportunistic gayboys, harridan bosses and sleazy tabloid journalists – but what keeps you engaged throughout is its sweet romantic core.

Writers David Elzer and Patricia Cotter (book), Elzer and Bret Calder (story) Lori Scarlett (lyrics and music) and Scarlett and David Manning (music) have combined their respective talents to bring us nineteen catchy songs in their satire-laced bon bon.

The musical posits the premise What if Hollywood’s Biggest Movie Star Had a Secret?

Justin Rush is Hollywood’s biggest movie star who has it all; a beautiful, devoted wife, more money than he knows what to do with, a huge summer action blockbuster set to open – but he’s finding it harder to keep his secrets secret in our TMZ, twitter-addicted, celebrity-obsessed culture.  Justin’s wife Amanda, (rumored to be under some sort of ‘contract’), is getting frustrated by the growing questioning of her husband’s sexuality and the endless scrutiny about their ‘alleged’ arrangement.  When Chris Andrews, his publicist’s assistant and Mitchell Matthews, her old high school sweetheart (and now tabloid photojournalist), enter their lives, things start to get complicated…

Adam Huss plays the hunky movie star Justin Rush and while he certainly looks the part, with his toned physique and sexy grin, unfortunately his voice is not up to the same high standard as the rest of the twelve-strong cast. Carrie St. Louis is great as the sweet, steadfast Amanda, Justin’s girlfriend from way back until they got married. Her dilemma is that she finds herself an unwitting ‘beard’ to his high powered career. With a decent voice, Tyler Ledon is good as Chris Andrews, the bright-eyed innocent abroad, fresh off the bus from ‘rust-belt Michigan’ and excited to make it as a writer in Tinseltown. To sweet Chris, Hollywood “smells like oranges and hope!”

The first job our hero lands is as the assistant to a high-powered über-bitch-on-wheels PR agent Buck whose top client is the mega-movie star Justin. She’s every cliché and tale you’ve ever hear about an abusive boss-from-hell who humiliates you with deplorable behavior yet keeps you around with the promise of an important recommendation.

Alet Taylor as Buck manages to hit all the right character notes and somehow skirt a clichéd performance. One running gag is her inability to remember her assistant’s names (because she goes through so many) so she just calls Chris whatever name comes to mind and it’s usually a girl’s one.

In fact, Taylor’s over-the-top harridan is hilarious and truly stole the entire show. A highlight is in the middle of Act Two when Buck and company bust out her high-energy ‘cautionary’ song Don’t Shit Where You Eat. The lyrics will have you virtually rolling in the narrow aisles of the intimate Celebration Theatre.

David Manning and Lori Scarlett’s songs are peppy and sweet and only a little same-y. Mostly the lyrics are witty, fast and endearing. Only occasionally do we hear some lyrics that are a bit ‘on-the-nose,’ such as Chris’ lament “Dangling my life’s dream in front of me makes it hard to quit.” But the whole show is just bursting with optimism and fun. There are a few zingers here and there but the humor is never mean, nasty or too cynical.

Justin Love is a super-fun, escapist musical with a generally sweet and sunny disposition.

Don’t miss this show!

PHOTO CREDIT: Michael Lamont.

PHOTO CREDIT: Michael Lamont.

Justin Love

Celebration Theatre

7051B Santa Monica Blvd

Los Angeles, CA 90038


Runs through Sunday, December 16, 2012

Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at 8pm;

Sundays at 2pm

Running time:

Approximately 2 hours, including a 15 minute intermission



Box Office:

Purchase tickets online  or call (323) 957-1884






Newest theatre review for LA Weekly — “The Color Purple” at Celebration

Production photo by Barry Weiss.

Gentle readers!

This week’s theatre review for the LA Weekly is for the musical version of Alice Walker’s sensational saga The Color Purple, now playing at Celebration Theatre in West Hollywood.


Click here and then scroll down a little bit to read my rave review.


~ OR ~


You can just read it here!!



 The Color Purple

A dazzling and buoyant musical (on Broadway from 2005-08) based on author Alice Walker’s Pulitzer-prize winning and sensational saga, this feminist tale charts an oppressed Southern black woman’s struggle for empowerment during the 1930s. The whirlwind pace of the lengthy (2 hour 30 minute) show — book by Marsha Norman, songs by Brenda Russell, Allee Willis, and Stephen Bray — crams in a lot of story, although condensed at times.

Director Michael Matthews has assembled a gifted creative team and a blisteringly talented cast of 17, all with powerful voices and unlimited enthusiasm, elevating Janet Roston’s superb choreography that is beautifully realized despite tight space constraints.

(Pictured left) Cesili Williams as central character Celie provides the raw heart of the show; it’s gratifying to watch her eventually step into her power. Matthews capitalizes on the intimate space, creating elegant and fluid staging and encouraging his cast to shatter the fourth wall.

The upbeat, high-energy and unabashedly sexy show mostly keeps the mood light, glossing over the harrowing aspects of Walker’s story to emphasize the sweeter emotional scenes and comedy, especially when employing a riotous and sassy ‘Greek chorus’ of gossipy church ladies as comic relief.

Hidden behind a wooden screen upstage are five musicians (including Music Director Gregory Nabours) playing their hearts out, belting out everything from honky tonk, jazz, blues and African rhythms, as well as backing tender duets featuring heavenly harmonies. Naila Aladin Sanders has created stunning period costumes.

 Do not miss this incredible show!

The Color Purple

Celebration Theatre,

7051-B Santa Monica Blvd.,

Los Angeles


Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.;

Sundays, 3 p.m.

Continues through Saturday May 26, 2012

Tickets are $34.00

For tickets, please call (323) 957-1884 for details or visit their official site to purchase tickets online or to view a complete schedule.