Saturday, March 2, 2024

LA JOLLA’S “REDWOOD”: A VISUAL SENSATION; A CATHARSIS FOR THE SOUL; A TRANSFORMATION OF THE HEART.

Idina  Menzel

I’ve been to see the Redwoods twice. Once in person with my late husband years ago and the second time at The La  Jolla Playhouse. 

I know, I know. There are no redwoods at the Playhouse, but believe it or not I had the experience of a lifetime at my second visit as I sat almost motionless throughout the 2 hour give or take  intermission-less  production of “Redwood”, a World Premiere Musical  with book by Tina Landau, music by Kate Diaz conceived by Tina Landau and Idina Menzel, lyrics by Kate Diaz and Tina Landau, with additional contributions by Idina Menzel and last but not least it is by directed by Tina Landau.  

I must also confess, I learned more about the redwoods than I ever thought I could. For example, a redwood tree reaching the height of the Empire State Building has very shallow roots; but roots that intermingle and intertwine with the roots of other redwoods giving it stability; that the redwoods have a heart, resilience, are fire proof, and experience growth spurts even getting thru the most difficult of times, i.e., fires.


Idina Menzel

And so, it is here that we find Jesse, (Idina Menzel) an always in charge, A Type personality who can’t cope with her bosses demands, and is at wits ends trying to cope with the loss of her 23 year old son while not getting what the needs from her wife Mel (De’Adre Aziza), who wants to remember only the good times. 

It is at this point Jesse takes off from her home in New York to parts unknown, stopping here and there and meeting up with a young man  (Zachary Noah Piser) urging her on, before she finds herself in Eureka, Ca. resting at the foot of a giant Redwood. Her sleep is interrupted by two scientists, Finn and Becca (Michael Park and Nkeki Obi Melekwe) who are on sight studying the health of the redwoods for future generations. She is on private property and is told to leave, in no uncertain terms especially by no nonsense Becca.  

Idina Menzel and De'Adre Aziza

After trying to get her to leave, she finally convinces Finn, the botanist of the two, to let her stay and the longer she stays, it becomes a game changer for Jesse, who realizes that this is just what she needs in the way of her transforming her life. And yes, you guessed it, she too found herself learning to climb the giant redwood and even staying a night or two on a platform many feet above the ground.  

I can imagine how exhilarating it was for Jesse, since at that moment, I could feel a rush within. And it is here that the visuals (Hana S. Kim, media designer) engulf you into the picture. Sitting in the front row I felt the world of the redwoods wash over me. 

Malecio Estrella and  Co. Bandaloop choreographed both movement and scaling the giant tree. Yes Jesse, Becca and Finn all had a part in the climbing to the awe of this reviewer. I can’t remember seeing anything like this in all my years of covering theatre even the play “K9” too many years ago at the once S.D. Rep. downtown. 

                                                  Zachary Noah Piser and Idina Menzel

The most disappointing element of the program is the music. There are more than a dozen songs written by Kate Diaz with lyrics by Tina Landau, with additional contributions by Menzel . That said most of the ‘dialogue’ is sung through and that was the most difficult for yours truly to hear and follow. Not -withstanding, most of the music sounded repetitive. 

What did not disappoint was the amazing quality, overall, of the cast. Each and every one outstanding for their contributions. 

What did not disappoint was Menzel, who is on stage throughout, as she finds her center and is able to show her vulnerability, her new strength, her core, her resilience and  use her powerful voice.

Michael Park and Idina Menzel

What did not disappoint was an emotional pull toward all of the characters even though some have less to do and say than others, but are necessary to the overall story.

One of the stronger and more forceful of the cast is Nkeki Obi Melekwe’s Becca who, surprisingly said she has a Jewish mother and was telling Jesse (assuming her character is also Jewish) to make sure she practiced Tikkun Olam or to repair and improve our broken world by acts of kindness and performing good deeds. 

Park’s Finn is the balance between the three, kind, gentle patient and understanding and Zachary Noah Piser ( “Still”) shows up as several characters thru out and I will leave it at that (no spoilers). 

It takes a village: Haley Bennett, Musical Director, Scenic Design, Jason Ardizzone, Costume Design, Toni-Leslie James, Lighting Design, Scott Zielinsky, Sound, Jonathan Deans, Hair Design, Geo Brian Hennings, Vertical Movement and Staging, Melecio Estrella Bandaloop.

Nkeki Obi-Melekwe and Idina Menzel

Director Landau whose cast is excellent overall brings out the best and the worst that life throws at us. Menzel gives it her all finally reconciling her grief and hopefully ready to make the world and herself a better place in which to live.

See you at the theatre.

Enjoy.


When: Runs through March 31. Show times vary.

Where: Sheila and Hughes Potiker Theatre, La Jolla Playhouse, 2910 La Jolla Village Drive, La Jolla

Tickets: Some tickets may be released daily.

Photo: Rich Soublet.

Online: lajollaplayhouse.org/show/redwood



 

Friday, February 9, 2024

NEW VILLAGE ARTS “FUN HOME” HAS A POWERFUL IMPACT AND YOU WON’T WANT TO MISS IT!

                                                          

“Fun Home” with music by Jeannie Testori, book and lyrics by Lisa Kron, (“2.5 Minute Ride”, “Well”) based on the  ‘graphic’ novel by Alison Bechdel is currently playing at New Village Arts through March 3rd.

It’s a comedy, it’s a drama, it’s a musical it’s a coming of age/coming out party for Alison Bechdel, her two brothers, her father and her mother. 

One might not consider the comings and goings of the five Bechdel’s a party or even funny for that matter unless you were one of the family and you were a cartoonist chronicling your life in a large sketch book while looking in as your life unfolded.


Lena Palke, Pryia Richard, Rae Henderson Gray

No one really knows what goes on ‘behind closed doors’, not even all those living within those doors and especially those outside those doors, not unless you are privileged to walk through those doors.  

Bechdel opened those doors when her memoir  “Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic” came out onto the public domain in 2006 in book form, while her 1983-2008 comic strip “Dykes To Watch Out For” was syndicated in dozens of newspapers and translated in several languages.  

The book was adapted as a musical by Kron and Tesori after several readings at the Ojai Playwrights Conference, then Sundance it opened on Broadway in 2013, to rave reviews. In 2015 it was nominated for 12 Tony’s including Best Musical. 


Lisette Velandia and Pryia Richard


The “Fun Home” is in fact the local communities funeral home, Bechdel Funeral Home, (“Come To The Fun Home”) run by Alison’s father Bruce (Brent Roberts) part time funeral director, who also taught high school English during the day and who went gallivanting to gay bars at night. 

Yes, he was a closeted gay. The two stories intertwine throughout, circling back and forth revolving around Alison’s coming out during her first year at Oberlin College (“Changing My Major”) and reflecting on her father’s best known secret, whose own sexuality was the bane of her mother, Helen’s (Sarah Alida Lecair  giving a  bravura performance, ) existence (“Days And Days”).  The day he stepped in front of a truck while Alison was still in college, four months after she came out. (“Telephone Wire”: ‘”So how does it feel to know that you and I are both”), was a heartstopper. But let's lay it all out on the table.


Rae Henderson Gray, Brent Roberts and Lena Palke

We meet Alison’s alter ego  (Rae Henderson Gray) as she is sorting through a lone box of ‘things’ salvaged and kept throughout the years as she recalls the past, picturing her Dad going through old artifacts he found in the garage while restoring the old Victorian house on Maple Ave. Looking back she reflects on her younger (“It All Comes Back”) self. 

While Gray is ever present and stately, with a range of expressions and emotions on her sleeve as she looks over her shoulders, reflecting on her growing up years, her father’s mood changes, her mother’s being pushed to the background never seeming happy, the fun, the pain and the angst is always ever present . 

Small (younger) Alison (Lena Pelke) is a star in her own right as she belts out “ Ring of Keys. Pryia Richard is  a standout as the teenage /medium Alison taking us through this narrow path of her coming out when she meets her college roommate Joan (Lisette Velandia) who encourages her to follow her heart. 

Brent Roberts, Bruce is her happy, sad, demonstrative, demanding and moody father, who at the drop of a hat will be wooing a high school student in his office one minute, playing games with his youngsters another or walking his compulsive obsessive behavior through the house in another. Bottom line though, he’s not very nice to be around and he is perfect at what he does.

Cast

With a strong cast in hand, and spot on direction by Kym Pappas’ sentimental oft time funny and all too tragic family dynamics,  Alison's journey is framed in the outline of their Victorian home (Yi-Chen Lee). Furniture is rolled on and the set depicting places and Curtis Mueller’s pinpoint lighting and projections identify places and locations outside the home as well as sketches of Alison’s drawings. Carmen Amo’s  almost matching striped jerseys for each of the Alison’s are a brilliant take especially in the finale when all three Alison’s (“Flying Away”) come together in unison. 

Rounding out the cast are Zayden McHardy and Leo Jones Alison's younger brothers who bring a bit of playfulness into the picture and Kris Rona who plays a multitude of characters. 

Musical direction is by Korrie Yamaok and choreography by Patrick Mayuyu. Unfortunately, the music is not live and in some instances the sound  (Ethan Eldred) overtook the voices; a flaw that can be remedied over time but do not let that keep you from seeing this wonderful production as well as amazing performances.

This is the second time I  have seen this show and I would see it again in a heartbeat. 

Hats off to Kym and New Village Theatre.

See you at the theatre.  

Enjoy. 

Tuesday, February 6, 2024

“ENGLISH” PLEASE, ENGLISH!


 How do you emphasize enough for someone to speak English when their native tongue is, say Spanish, or Farsi, or Russian, or Hebrew and yours is English only? 

After my two oldest grandsons moved back to San Diego, after having lived eighteen years in Israel,  they lived with me. Both boys were and are bi -lingual, but most of the conversations they had with each other was in Hebrew. My hue and cry was…’English Please, English.'


Joe Joseph and Pooya Mohseni

And, so it is in Sanaz Toossi’s 2023 Pulitzer Prize , Obie Award, and Lucille Lorttel’s award  play currently on stage at the Old Globe’s  Sheryl and Harvey White Theatre in the round through Jan 25th, that her new play “English” is so insightful, at least to me,  as one who speaks English only.

Set just outside Tehran in 2008 in a small classroom, four students are preparing for the English proficiency test (TOEFL) in order to get a visa to come to the U.S. Each student has a different reason for leaving the repressive regime in which they live; some more than others. Three of the four are grappling to make this work and fit in to their own lives as English speakers.  The sole male in the class, Omid (Joe Joseph) is already proficient, but feels he is not proficient enough. His is another story in and of itself. However don’t be surprised if you noticed a little love interest between Omid and Marjan, his teacher.

from left) Mary Apick, Ari Derambakhsh, Pooya Mohseni, Tara Grammy, and Joe Joseph

Of the other women,  Roya (Mary Apick) is a grandmother whose main purpose is to speak with her family who now live in Canada. Hers is a most difficult journey because she not only cannot fathom the language, but loves her native tongue.  Goli (Ari Derambakshs) is an enthusiastic 18 year old who is more than happy to take on a new language and Elham (Tara Grammy) has an opportunity to study in Australia , but struggles with the language. Teaching this diverse class is Marjan Pooya Mohseni. She is by the book strict that English only to be spoken. And while she is proficient, she too, struggles. 

Director Arya Shasi moves the actors around in a classroom setting so that each has an opportunity to be facing a different classmate each time they get together. They also practice passing a ball around while repeating words with different beginning sounds. 


(from left) Joe Joseph, Pooya Mohseni, and Mary Apick 

The play, with its short scenes changing about, is funny, honest, oft times disappointing when one or the other struggles and wonders if it’s worth it. As one who has tried to learn a foreign language many times, let alone read it and failed, I can appreciate all of their feelings. 

Scenic design by Sadra Tehrani, lighting design by Amanda Zieve, costumes by Afsaneh Aayani and sound design be Megumi Katayama bring it all together setting the stage and look to be authentic especially, Afsaneh Aayani’s  beautifully colored scarves and head coverings, a basic look for women. in Iran 


(from left) Tara Grammy and Pooya Mohseni

“English” has its highs and lows , funny and serious moments. As noted, learning a new language can be frustrating, emotional, threatening and rewarding. 

For not your run of the mill plays, “English” is worth look see. 

Enjoy. 

See you at the theatre.


(from left) Pooya Mohseni, Tara Grammy, Ari Derambakhsh, Joe Joseph, and Mary Apick 


When:. Opens Feb. 1 and runs through Feb. 25. Showtimes, 7 p.m. Tuesdays and Wednesdays; 8 p.m. Thursdays and Fridays; 2 and 8 p.m. Saturdays; 2 and 7 p.m. Sundays 

Where: Old Globe Theatre’s Sheryl and Harvey White Theatre, Balboa Park 

Tickets: $49 and up 

Phone: (619) 234-5623 

Photo:  Rich Soublet II.

Online: theoldglobe.org


Monday, February 5, 2024

‘LADY DAY’ PACKS A POWERFUL, HEARTBREAKING PUNCH WITH WORDS AND MUSIC

“Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar and Grill”, Lanie Robertson’s 95 minute play with music that  burns through Cygnet’s sound system as  Karole Foreman becomes Bill Holiday warts and all. Wren T. Brown founder of Ebony Theatre, directs. Ebony Repertory Theatre is a co production with Cygnet.

Set in the small jazz bar, “Emerson’s Bar and Grill” located in South Philly in 1959, a few months before her death, Holiday, nicknamed ‘Lady Day’ by her friend and musical partner Lester Young, is practically carried on to the stage by Jimmy Powers (Damon Carter) her pianist, to perform even though she is visibly not fit for prime time. 

Boosted by drugs and drink, low self -esteem  and racial discrimination, she pulls herself together. She tugs at her  beautiful all white gown (Kimberly DeShazo)and adjusts her long satin gloves, looks around the room, smiles wipes the tears from her face and begins to launch into stories about the men in her life; her lover Joe Guy (he supplied her with the drugs), her mother whom she called “The Duchess” and the unusual treatment she received, as the one black performer with Artie Shaw’s band, who couldn’t eat in the ‘white’ dining room with the rest of the crew, so Shaw paid extra for Billie and the crew to eat in the kitchen. 

Karole Foreman as Lady Day

Foreman’s performance is heartbreaking and revealing as she becomes Holliday’s alter ego. Her story unveils the life of a talented artist used by just about everyone in her world, her managers, her mother, her promoters, the men in her life and the failed system that took her dignity, her innocence and her money. She died four months after this performance at age 44.  

Most of the dozen or so songs you will hear at ‘Emerson Grill’ will not be her most recognizable: What you will hear: “I Wonder Where Our Love Has Gone”? “Big Foot (And a Bottle of Beer) “Strange Fruit”, “God Bless The Child”, “Somebody’s On My Mind”, “Easy Lovin’”, “Ain’t Nobody’s Business”,” Strange Fruit” and a reprise of “Don’t Explain/What a Little Moonlight Can Do”. (Moonlight is the operative for her booze and drugs)


Karole Foreman with Damon Carter

Scenic design by Edward E. Haynes Jr., Evan Eason, sound design, and Peter Herman’s wigs and makeup all come together to make this one hell of a show.

We must also recognize Musical Director Damon Carter who not only plays a mean piano, but he keeps  Ms. Holiday on her feet during her performances. 

To say that Billie Holiday had tough breaks from the start of her life would be an understatement. More than anything, the system, which we are all grappling under and still needs fixing, failed her bigtime. We don’t know how many more Billie Holiday’s are out there, but it’s time America closed its collective eye to the color of one's skin.


See you at the theatre.


Enjoy!


When: 7 p.m. Wednesdays through Saturdays; 2 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays. Through Feb. 18


Where: Cygnet Theatre, 4040 Twiggs St., Old Town State Historic Park


Tickets: $39 and up


Photo:  Karli Cadel Photography


Phone: (619) 337-1525


Online: cygnettheatre.com









 

Tuesday, January 16, 2024

“Intimate Apparel” at NCR: A Bittersweet Tale Of Love From Afar

Cast

 Lynn Nottage’s “Intimate Apparel” won  2004 NY Drama Critics Circle and Outer Circle Awards for best play. It received the John Gassner Award, 2004 Drama Desk, Obie and American Theatre Critics Steinberg 2004 New Play Award. And… it’s playing here in Solana Beach at The North Coast Repertory Theater through Feb. 4th.

Nottage snaps and frames a picture perfect of one uneducated African American woman who, at the turn of the century (1905) makes ‘intimate apparel’ for the rich and restless socialites of the upper class New York Society as well as for the prostitutes in the Tenderloin District.  It is a tapestry whose story is woven through the fabric of the lives of those who are trapped in their own cultures, customs and societal ways.

Madeline Barker

It is a well- seasoned and well rounded/excellent production splendidly directed by Jasmine Bracey with Nedra Snipes as Esther Mills, daughter of former slaves.Esther is so talented and with a well deserved reputation, that unhappy in her marriage socialite Mrs. Van Buren (Madeline Barker), takes Esther in her confidence and almost falls in love much to Esther's chagrin. From the rich and famous to the lower echelons she is also seamstress to her friend Mayme, (Arizsia Staten) a high- class prostitute whose conquests are shared with Ester on a regular basis.  

Esther is well respected and yes, loved from afar by Mr. Marks, (Jonathan Fisher, Jr ) the Orthodox Jew who sells Esther his most treasured fabrics of imported silks from which she makes her cherished items. 

Nedra Snipes and Jonathan Fisher, Jr

Theirs is a hands off love affair that takes place right under their noses but as religious and cultural restraints forbid their closeness they continue their business relationship with a tension as thick as an entire bolt of fabric. Brilliant in her comparison’s, playwright Notting places them on a parallel playing field; both are unwed, waiting for mail order spouses to arrive and fulfill their marital obligations. And both share a love of beautiful and expensive fabrics.

Esther is thirty -five and does not have ‘her own man’; she has no one to really connect with. Out of the  blue, she begins a correspondence, although she neither reads nor writes, with George Armstrong, (Donald Paul)  a West Indian on the Panama Canal construction crew, who would very much love to come to New York and marry her. She is elated and in her loneliness convinces herself that she’s in love. 


Donald Paul

Her landlady, Mrs. Dickson, (Teri Brown) who owns the boarding house Esther has lived in since she arrived in New York, has concerns about George’s motives but not enough to shake Esther’s happiness. Esther makes  a leap of faith, very much out of character, that leads to a predictable disaster in Act II Under Jasmine Bracey’s  solid direction and with poignant and determined acting, Snipes gives us an accurate portrayal of a woman’s restraint, elation, surprise, disappointment and finally resignation. She is easygoing yet poised as Esther threads her way through what should be a most happy time in her life to the worst case scenario. 

Arizsia Staten

Arizsia Staton shows her excellence as a most talented and versatile actor as the high class, jazz playing prostitute who shares secrets and an occasional drink with her friend Esther. Her portrayal of Mayme is both funny and painful as she cleans herself after having sex in what might be called a whore’s bath, and then dabs herself with talc in all her intimate parts. 

Donald Paul cuts quite a dashing figure of transformation from laborer to play boy while Fisher, Jr is able to subtly move his character of an Orthodox, hands off Jew to a more cautious and daring suitor. 

Ms. Brown is a powerful presence on any stage, and on target as Esther’s mentor, friend and adoptive parent. She’s funny, all knowing in her wisdom and while oft times offering unsolicited advise, knows from whence she comes. 


Teri Brown

Madeline Barker  is the token high -class white woman who consults with Esther on all that socialites are wearing ‘these days’ as well as her unhappiness in her loveless marriage. She gives a lightness yet evokes pity. 

Marty Burnett’s layered set with see through curtains showing another story in the background has period colors, sewing machine, several rooms, all different in d├ęcor separating one location from the other, and cubbies along the stag that holds the different bolts of fabric is picture perfect on the long stage NCR. 

Matt Novotny’s lighting design  in itself another character emphasizing the backlighting when George comes on to the scene sharing his stories of his days on the crew of the building of the Canal to the loneliness he feels and…his longing to come to New York.  The rest are in muted  tones in keeping with shaded lighting of the period. Elisa Benzoni’s  costumes are picture and period perfect for each character.

Peter Herman’s wigs are perfect and Evan Eason’s sound design along with Arizsia Staton playing Honky Tonk on the piano puts the topping on a well-deserved production. 


Nedra Snipes and Donald Paul

Lynn Nottage’s bittersweet saga of self -discovery, and a woman’s courage should be an inspiration to all who take in this excellent production and who, like yours truly, was spellbound overall. 

When: 7 p.m. Wednesdays, Thursdays and Sundays; 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays; 2 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays. Through Feb. 4

Where: North Coast Repertory Theatre, 987 Lomas Santa Fe Drive, Solana Beach

Tickets: $49-$74

Phone: (858) 481-1055

Photo: Aaron Rumley


Monday, January 15, 2024

LAMB’S “OUTSIDE MULLINGAR" FILLED WITH LAUGHTER, ANXIETY AND HOPE.

Background: Robert Smyth, Deborah Gilmour Smith, Brian Mackey and Rachael Van Wormer

New York born Irish –American Patrick Shanley of “Doubt” (Pulitzer Prize) and “Moonstruck” (Best original Screenplay) and  “Danny and the Deep Blue Sea” knows how to tell story and build it to awesome heights while keeping us in suspense as to the outcome. 

That’s the case with “Outside Mullingar” now playing at Lambs Players Theater through March 3rd. 

“Outside Mullingar” hit some nerves as I sat and watched two lonely young people struggle to gain their footing in a world that talks love and relationships, sings its praises but for them it’s an uphill journey to find either or even one. 

Sometimes you just want to knock two heads together to put some sense into them. That’s the case of Anthony Reilly (Brian Mackey) and Rosemary Muldoon (Rachael Van Wormer) .

To say that their secret longings have been brewing under the surface for years would be an understatement especially for Rosemary. Anthony even had a serious girlfriend at one time and Rosemary weathered that storm. For Rosemary, her patience is running thin. Anthony has his own inner musings that stops him from confronting the present. We will learn about that later rather than sooner. 

Brian Mackey and Rachael Van Wormer(back row) Robert Smyth and Deborah Gilmour Smyth

Tony and Aoife (Robert Smyth and Deborah Gilmour Smyth)) have been neighbors, it seems forever. They live in a rural village just outside Mullingar not far from Dublin, but it seems a world away. 

After the death of her husband we find Aoife and Tony deep in conversation in Tony’s kitchen about the funeral. The conversation veers to rumors that Tony is not going to give his only son Anthony his farm after he dies, which he’s sure will be soon. He’s considering a nephew in America as the recipient.

Tony goes back and forth about who Anthony looks like in the family, the fact that he’s not married nor has his own children to pass it along and the fact he doesn’t really likes the farm (“You don’t stand on the land and draw strength from it as I did.”) 

Brian and Rachael

By this time Rosemary has come to the house and both mother and daughter fall on Tony until he comes to his senses and agrees Anthony should have the farm after all. 

The two families own adjoining farms with a gate separating them. Years ago when Tony needed some cash he sold off a small parcel to Aoife’s husband  that was deeded to Rosemary when she was a child. Tony wants it back, but that’s a non- starter. The land will remain in Rosemary’s column. 

It’s not surprising then, that there were no secrets between the four nor is there now between the two since each lost their surviving parent. The only unspoken puzzle is why the two have been dancing their separate dances for years. Why they don’t decide to get hitched is the mystery that we all hope will be resolved at plays end.  Certainly, there is chemistry, history and it just makes sense.



Now a year has passed and both sets parents on each side are deceased. For Rosemary, her patience is running out. Anthony has his own inner thoughts that we will learn later rather than sooner.



But Shanley’s “Outside Mullingar” isn’t that simple. It’s really about two displaced (just about past prime time) people who must take this journey alone to find love or whatever they imagine love would look like. It’s epic in proportion, as we will soon find, as the entire later part of the play will begin their coming of age relationship. 


Between Shanley’s lyrical dialogue, and a terrific cast supporting that, we find ourselves in the middle of some strange bargaining or fact findings; is he gay, impotent, depressed? The fact that she loves him so, she’s willing to explore every angle. His retorts are one for the books and that’s what makes this love story so charming, so truthfully sad, so appealing, so funny…so Irish. It’s as if they do live on opposite sides of the world.

Putting shy and almost childlike Anthony up against outgoing, speak your mind Rosemary doesn’t seem ‘fair and balanced’ but in Shanley’s world and you will agree it is indeed balanced. 

Husband and wife teams of Robert Smyth and Deborah Gilmour Smyth and Rachael Van Wormer and husband Brian Mackey as partners yet adversaries give the whole look a more intimate and convincing spark to it according to the troika of directors, Robert Smyth, Kerry Meads and Deborah Gilmour Smyth. 

Yours truly found the acting somewhat uneven at times especially when Miss Van Wormer was yelling her lines so much so that it was difficult to understand what she was saying. But in the final scene between Tony and Anthony as Tony lay dying it made up for all the difficulties and shortcomings of the production. Both father and son (in the play) broke your hearts and brought a tear or two to the eyes

Brian and Rachael

And yet, on a more positive note Van Wormer’s Rosemary leads Anthony on a path to giving him every reason to either accept her as she is, letting her love him as deeply as she knows how or giving him the option to walk away, and if that's the case, she bares her soul, her love and is ready to give him her heart.  It’s a gift, a love story and a winner. 

Enjoy. 

See you at the theatre.


Mike Buckley designed the minimalist set, Nathan Peirson the lighting, Jemima Dutra costume and Jillian Frost, dialect coach. 


When:  Opens Jan. 13 and runs through March 3rd.

 Showtimes: 2 and 7 p.m. Wednesdays; 7 p.m. Thursdays and Fridays; 2 and 7 p.m. Saturdays; 2 p.m. Sundays

Where: Lamb’s Players Theatre, 1142 Orange Ave., Coronado

Tickets: $28-$82

Phone: (619) 437-6000

Photo: Ken Jaques and Lamb’s Players Theatre

Online: lambsplayers.org






 

Thursday, January 11, 2024

The “Wiz” Hits The Civic Center With Great Voices, Every Color Of the Rainbow and Outstanding Dancing.

Nichelle Lewis as Dorothy and Avery Wilson as The Scarecrow

 If you are expecting to see a traditional “The Wonderful Wizard Of Oz: you will have gone to the wrong theatre of the opening night performance at the Civic theatre of “The Wiz” OH! There is a Dorothy, The Tinman, The Lion, The Scarecrow and The Wizard. But to say there is much more of the original the way you would have remembered it would be an overstatement. 

This almost all new singing and dancing touring show is slated for Broadway. With a few minor nips and tucks here and there and maybe an added person or two I would have been happy. And where the hell was Toto? 

Years ago, a very good friend of mine started  me on a Wizard Od OZ character collection. The last to arrive was Dorothy and Toto in her little doggie basket. I wish I still had that collection now. Anyway moving on, this revival production has an all -Black cast with talent galore, culturally inclusive and historically all knowing.


Kyle Ramar Freeman, Avery Wilson, Nichelle Lewis, Phillip Johnson Richardson

With book by William F. Brown and Music and Lyrics by Charlie Smalls, directed by Schele Williams, Choreographed by Jaquel Knight  and with awesome , never seen the likes of three dimensional projections by Daniel Brodie, Hannah Beachler’s scenic design and colorful costumes by Sharen Davis this two and a half hour show (with all the wonders of modern technology) still needs culling.

The story pretty much follows Dorothy’s (the beautiful and gifted 24 year old Nichelle Lewis) wind swept adventure to the Land of Oz where she saves The Scarecrow(Avery Wilson), comforts the Tin Man (Phillip Johnson Richardson) gives understanding to the Cowardly Lion (Kyle Ramar Freeman). All three ooze with talent both singing and dancing. It’s a bit of a change from the original Frank L. Baum, but you do get the impression that you’ve seen something very similar a la "The Wonderful Wizard of Oz" even without the munchkins. The Yellow Brick Road (sorry no yellow) “Ease Down the Road” instead are minor departures, but to be expected. 


There are more names to be added to that outstanding list: Deborah Cox as Glinda, ("He's the Wiz" and Believe in Yourself") and Melody A. Betts as Aunt Em. She tries to reassure Dorothy that she's loved("The Feeling We Once Had") And not to forget Dorothy's final number "Home".  

“The Wiz” opened on Broadway’s Majestic Theatre Jan. 5th 1975, and later transferred the Broadway Theatre. It played 1,672 performances . It won seven 1975 Tony Awards including Best Musical. A 19684 revival managed only 13 performances at the Lunt-Fontainne Theatre. 

Only time will tell the fate of this 2025 revival. 


Enjoy. 


See you at the theatre.



Dates: Jan. 11; 8 p.m. Jan. 12 ; 2 and 8 p.m. Jan. 13;1 and 6:30 p.m. 

Where: San Diego Civic Theatre, 1100 Third Ave., downtown

Tickets: $44 and up

Photo: Jeremy Daniel

Online: broadwaysd.com