Tag Archives: Colony Theatre

“Diversity” Show Raises Funds For Family Service Agency

Diversity: Stories of Connection in an Urban Jungle appears at The Colony Theatre on Monday, November 13, for a one-night-only show. A collection of true stories told live on stage, Diversity runs the gamut from the humorous to the poignant. All proceeds from the performance benefit Burbank’s Family Service Agency.

Produced and directed by Burbanker Suzanne Weerts, Diversity showcases live music by Burbank resident and award-winning guitarist Peter Skrabak and the irreverent country-comedy duo Mommy Tonk.


Storytellers Hedia Anvar, Katsy Chapell, Megan Dolan, Carlos Lacamara, Liza Marquez, Janora McDuffie, Horus Ra, Lila Lee Silvern and Suzanne Skrabak share their interesting and often hilarious takes on experiences with immigration, interracial marriage, racism, neurodiversity and cultural challenges, according to Weerts.

“After several years of performing in/sharing my stories on stages across Southern California in other people’s shows, I decided to produce my own,” commented Weerts. “In 2016 and 2017, I co-produced/co-directed the two sold out Listen To Your Mother shows at The Colony Theatre as benefits for FSA.”

“Through those shows, we were able to raise over $6000 for FSA while raising awareness for their important work in the community,” she went on to say.

“As Family Service Agency prepares to celebrate their 65th Anniversary in Burbank in 2018, it is all the more important that their work with the mental healthcare and preventative programs on 19 Burbank campuses, the three long-term transitional shelters and support programs for battered women and their children and homeless families be recognized and celebrated.”

“Every person who connects with FSA has a story, and often times ones that involves seemingly insurmountable challenges. The meaningful work done by FSA in counseling and mental health services is always aimed toward ensuring those stories have positive outcomes.”

“Productions like Diversity and Listen To Your Mother use the time-honored tradition of storytelling to get people talking about similarities in our experiences and the challenges we all face and help us to see how more alike we are than different.”

“I wanted to bring Diversity: Stories of Connection in an Urban Jungle to the stage because my heart has been so heavy in the wake of divisive rhetoric in our country,” added Weerts. “When we put out the call for submissions, we had no idea what kind of stories we’d receive. And certainly the show has taken a different form than I might have predicted with tales that are brilliant, surprising, heartbreaking and hilarious.”

Weerts expressed gratitude for story curators Marsha Ramos, Dan Tirman and Stan Sellers, who helped select the stories, and Jennifer Hughes for graphic design. She also noted the Burbank Human Relations Council is a sponsor of the show, “knowing the value of promoting understanding and cooperation among the diverse groups that compose our community.”

The show is supported by JAM Creative and is also sponsored by Cusumano Real Estate Group, Alisa Cunningham Properties, Universal Studios Hollywood, Volpei Gussow Real Estate Group, Color Images and Susy Shearer Photography.

Diversity: Stories of Connection in an Urban Jungle has one show at The Colony Theatre on Monday, November 13, at 7:00 p.m. Tickets are $25 and available in advance here. The Colony Theatre is located at 555 N. Third Street in Burbank, with ample free parking available on site.

Donna Mills Opens “Driving Miss Daisy” At The Colony

Emmy Award-winning actress Donna Mills appears in Driving Miss Daisy for a limited engagement at The Colony Theatre in Burbank. Two preview performances will be held on Thursday and Friday, November 2 and 3. Opening night is Saturday, November 4, with shows through December 10.

Directed by Tony Award-nominee and Colony Director of Development Heather Provost, the cast features Broadway veteran James Leo Ryan and stage and screen actor Arthur Richardson.

Driving Miss Daisy won several Academy Awards for the 1989 movie release featuring Jessica Tandy, Morgan Freeman and Dan Aykroyd.

As the beautiful, scheming, manipulative businesswoman, Abby Fairgate Cunningham Ewing Sumner on the long-running primetime drama series Knots Landing, Mills became a household name. She has appeared in many television, film and stage productions throughout her career.

“I am so honored to get the opportunity to play the iconic role of Daisy Werthan,” commented Mills. “I am beyond thrilled to be onstage and to show audiences my take on this character, which is so different from my roles in film and television.”

“It’s so exciting to relaunch production at The Colony Theatre by revisiting this beautiful play and working with the incredible Donna Mills,” said Provost. “The story and the issues the play examines continue to reflect the current times.”

Driving Miss Daisy takes place in the 1940s through 1970s at the height of the Civil Rights movement. The play delicately explores racial tensions when a warm friendship evolves between an elderly Jewish woman and her black chauffeur. The play, written by Alfred Uhry, won the 1988 Pulitzer Prize for Drama.

The two preview performances of Driving Miss Daisy begin at 8:00 p.m. on Thursday and Friday November 2 and 3. The opening night show on Saturday, November 4, is also set for 8:00 p.m.

The regular show schedule will be Thursday, Friday and Saturday at 8:00 p.m., and Sunday at 3:00 p.m. through December 10. There will be no performance on Thanksgiving Day, Thursday November 23.

Admission is $39 and tickets may be purchased online at www.colonytheatre.org or by phone at (866) 811-4111. The Colony Theatre is located at 555 N. Third Street (between Cyprus and Magnolia) in Burbank, 91502. Ample free onsite parking is available.

Fritz Coleman Opens One-Man Colony Theatre Show

NBC4 Weathercaster Fritz Coleman opens his solo show, An Evening with Fritz Coleman, tonight, October 19, at The Colony Theatre in downtown Burbank.

“The forecast is for fun and laughter when An Evening with Fritz Coleman arrives on the Colony stage,” commented Colony Theatre Director of Development Heather Provost in a media release. “Everyone’s favorite weatherman shares his hilarious, insightful take on growing up and growing older. He proves that aging isn’t pretty… but it’s pretty funny!”

Fritz Coleman

NBC4 Weathercaster Fritz Coleman brings his take on life to The Colony Theatre in Burbank with “An Evening With Fritz Coleman.” (Photo Courtesy The Colony Theatre)

Coleman is a three-time Emmy Award winner and has been the weathercaster for NBC4 for 35 years. He has appeared eight times on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson and Jay Leno and is a sought after Master of Ceremonies for many events around Burbank and Los Angeles.

He started out in Los Angeles as a standup comic in 1980, segueing into the weekend weathercaster role at KNBC in 1982. By 1984, Coleman was the main weekday weatherman. He has continued to write and perform standup and theater pieces through the years.

An Evening with Fritz Coleman completes the Colony’s It’s Showtime series which began in July and included Reign Morton’s ICONversations: A Musical Tribute to the Masters, Magic Mania, I’d Enjoy Being a Girl … On Broadway!  starring Mark C. Reis, and a concert presentation of Stephen Sondheim’s A Little Night Music.  

Coleman takes The Colony Theatre stage at 8:00 p.m. on  Thursday, October 19, Friday October 20 and Saturday October 21. The final performance of the four-show run is Sunday October 22 at 3:00 p.m.

Admission is $35 and tickets may be purchased online at www.colonytheatre.org or by phone at (866) 811-4111. The Colony Theatre is located at 555 N. Third Street (between Cyprus and Magnolia) in Burbank. Plenty of free parking is available in the adjacent parking garage.

Colony Theatre Screens “Halloween” Friday The 13th

The Colony Theatre offers a night of spooky fun with a Halloween-themed party Friday evening, October 13. While the marquee event is the screening of John Carpenter’s 1978 classic teen scream movie Halloween, the party kicks off with a live DJ and drink specials along with a horror and sci fi art show in the theater’s gallery.


Art by George Kalcoff available at The Colony Theatre’s Friday The 13th party. (Image Courtesy The Colony Theatre)

Popular local artists featured in the gallery include Glen Orbik, Laurel Blechman, Shawn Zents, Paul Wee, Drew Ragland, George Kalcoff and more. The art will be available for purchase.

“I’m so excited about this event,” commented Heather Provost, The Colony Theatre Director of Development.

“It’s different, it’s fun, it’s edgy and the combination of these mediums – art, music, film, is going to make it really special.”

“So much art happening in one place, at one time, is always a great thing… and bringing something unique like this, in our very own way, to the community, is important.”

The screening of Halloween, which features Jamie Lee Curtis and Donald Pleasence, will be the first time the cult classic has been shown on the big screen in more than 20 years in Burbank.

Pre-sale tickets are $10 and $15 at the door. Seating is limited and assigned and tickets can be bought via the theater’s website here. Doors open at 6:00 p.m. and the movie begins at 8:00 p.m.

The Colony Theatre is located at 555 N. Third Street in Burbank. Plenty of free parking is available in the attached parking garage.

Colony Theatre Opens Two September Shows

The Colony Theatre presents two shows in September as part of the company’s It’s Showtime! series. I’d Enjoy Being a Girl … On Broadway! runs from September 14–17 and A Little Night Music in Concert runs from September 21 – 24.

I’d Enjoy Being a Girl … On Broadway! stars writer, performer and dancer Mark C. Reis in a solo show directed by Michele Lynch. The humorous show is choreographed by Lisa Mandel, with musical direction by Scott Harlan.

colony theatreReis, a Broadway veteran, uses music and dance to explore continuing his career and consider how his success may have been different had he been a girl. Most recently Reis was seen in Mary Poppins at MTW and Spamalot with 3D Theatricals. He currently appears in the live Frozen show at Disneyland.

“I am thrilled to have my work included in the Colony’s It’s Showtime! series,” commented Reis. “I’ve always loved the theatre and dreamed of performing there. I never thought it could happen, but here I come!”

I’d Enjoy Being a Girl … On Broadway! is scheduled for four performances: Thursday, September 14, at 8:00 p.m., Friday, September 15, at 8:00 p.m., Saturday, September 16, at 8:00 p.m. and Sunday, September 17, at 3:00 p.m.

The Colony Theatre’s concert presentation of A Little Night Music in Concert features (in alphabetical order) Liza Baron, Angela Baumgardner, Carly Bracco, Marc Ginsburg, Erica Hanrahan-Ball, Michelle Holmes, Taj Jegaraj, Jennifer Kumiyama, Stanton Morales, Joey Nisivoccia, Sara St. Pierre, Cloie Wyatt Taylor, Peyton Thomas Tucker, Alison Whitney and Robert Yacko.

With music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim and a book by Hugh Wheeler, A Little Night Music in Concert is directed by Laura Stribling and features musical direction by Jennifer Lin. Sarah Jo Provost serves as assistant director. The show is produced by Noelle Berry, Carly Bracco, Liza Baron and Marc Ginsburg.

“This concert presentation is the first in a series committed to creating a platform where beautiful scores come to life focusing on diversity in casting and featuring talent that is often underrepresented,” said Colony Theatre Director of Development Heather Provost. “The series will encourage women to step off the stage and into leadership roles behind the scenes.”

A Little Night Music In Concert is scheduled for four performances: Thursday, September 21, at 8:00 p.m., Friday, September 22, at 8:00 p.m., Saturday, September 23, at 8:00 p.m. and Sunday, September 24, at 3:00 p.m.

Admission for both shows is $35 and tickets may be purchased online at www.colonytheatre.org or by phone at (866) 811-4111. The Colony Theatre is located at 555 N. Third Street (between Cyprus and Magnolia) in Burbank, 91502. Plenty of free onsite parking is available.

MagicMania Brings A Festival Of Magic To Burbank

MagicMania, a four-day festival of magic shows, opens Thursday, August 17, at The Colony Theatre. Created and hosted by Albie Selznick, each 90-minute performance is a unique combination of sleight of hand, interactive parlor magic and illusions.

More than 25 performers will appear during MagicMania‘s run, including Jon Armstrong (two-time Magic Castle “Close-up Magician of the Year”), Dana Daniels (Broadway’s The Illusionists 1900 and 5-time Magic Castle “Magician of the Year”), Andrew Goldenhersh (two-time Magic Castle “Parlour Magician of the Year”), Christopher Hart (award-winning magician who played ‘The Thing’ in The Addams Family films), Pop Haydn (seven-time Magic Castle “Magician of the Year”), Ivan Pecel (nine-time world champion juggler), Naathan Phan (Masters of Illusion, Wizard Wars, America’s Got Talent) and Joel Ward (Penn and Teller’s Fool Us), plus The Bistrevsky Bros., The Bornsteins, Simon Coronel, Derek the Mime, Bruce Gold, Chris Juggerio and Matt Marcy.

Selznick is known for his theatrical magic show Smoke and Mirrors, which ran for four years in Los Angeles and New York City. He began Magic Monday in late 2015 with fellow magicians and variety acts, including Hart, Haydn, Daniels and Pecel.

“We put on a casual Monday magic show,” explained Selznick. “It was a fun little experiment. But it did well, so we kept going through summer 2016 and brought it back this summer.”

“We didn’t expect it to snowball like it has but it gave us the idea for MagicMania which is basically the best of the best of all the Magic Mondays.”

MagicMania is “kind of like the Lollapalooza of Magic!” he added. “Twenty-five different acts, five different shows, all one weekend!”

“Each show is so good, I really hope people take advantage of this festival and see more than one,” Selznick said. “I’m very excited about bringing all these acts together over one weekend at one theatre!”

Tickets are $35 per seat for one show. Discount passes of $70 for three shows or $110 for all five shows are also available via the website MagicManiaLA.com. The Colony Theatre is located at 555 N. Third Street in Burbank. Plentiful parking is available in the attached mall parking garage.

Shows are at 8:00 p.m. Thursday, August 17 through Saturday, August 19. On Saturday, August 19, and Sunday August 20, a 3:00 p.m. performance will also be held. Audiences are invited to arrive early for pre-show entertainment which begins one-half hour prior to each performance.

Colony Kids Camp C.R.E.A.T.E. Presents Theatre And Film Festival

Twenty students from the Burbank area have been learning theater and film skills at The Colony Theatre’s Camp C.R.E.A.T.E. (Create. Really. Exciting. Art. Together. Everyday.)

The kids have been working on playwriting, screenplay writing, acting, directing, production design, cinematography, editing, lighting, costumes and sound with working industry professionals.

Ranging in age from 8-14, the youngsters have been divided into two groups, the Tonys (theater) and the Oscars (film.) For three weeks of the six week program, the Tony Group focused on plays the student wrote, directed, cast and rehearsed. At the same time the Oscar Group worked on similar skills, but instead of theater rehearsals, their projects were filmed and edited with professionals.

“We are just so proud of this program and that we are able to provide something so special and innovative to the youth of Burbank,” commented Colony Theatre Director of Development and Camp Director Heather Provost.

Camp C.R.E.A.T.E.

Class instructors R.C. Ormond and Scott Damian show how a fight scene is done with planning and the difference for a live audience or TV camera. (Photo by © Ross A. Benson)

Producer, singer and actor Noelle Berry is the camp Co-Director and James Leo Ryan (Broadway performer) is the theater instructor, Author and Filmmaker Scott Damian and Genetra Tull (technical director at the Colony) are the film instructors.

ABC Family/Freeform Casting Director Marlo Tiede held an Auditioning for Film and TV workshop. Director/producer Rodney To (Parks and Rec, Wilfred, Rosewood) conducted an Auditioning/Acting for the Stage workshop.

R.C. Ormond (actor/stuntman, Transformers, The Time Machine, The Office, Resident Evil:Degeneration) held a Stunts for Film and Stage workshop. Toby Meuli (Social Network, Death Valley, Dating Rules for My Future Self) did an Acting for Film class.

Camp C.R.E.A.T.E.

Los Angeles theater director Randy Brenner is slated to hold a Directing for Stage workshop and soap opera star Teresa Castillo (General Hospital) will conduct an Acting for TV workshop.

The Oscar Group also had an Intro to Soundtracks and Scoring Your Film class led by Genetra Tull.

Camp C.R.E.A.T.E.

Class instructors R.C. Ormond and Scott Damian show how a fight scene is done with planning and the difference for a live audience or TV camera. (Photo by © Ross A. Benson)

Camp C.R.E.A.T.E. holds its culminating Theatre and Film Festival on July 29 to showcase the campers’ plays, films and storyboards. The event will show family and friends what a day in camp was like and the results of the youngsters work.

“We are also so proud of how diverse our campers are. They all come from different backgrounds and cultures,” added Provost. “And it’s beautiful watching them all work together towards common goals.”

“This camp isn’t necessarily about having these kids become directors, writers, etc… but it’s about exposing them to it all… having them walking away and truly believing the mantras they tell themselves in the mirror each morning,” she also said. “Because most importantly, we want to help build confident, thinking, kind human beings who know how special they are.”

Colony Theatre Presents “ICONversations,” A Musical Journey

The Colony Theatre presents vocal artist Reign Morton in ICONversations, a musical love letter to his father. Morton sings iconic songs from Frank Sinatra, Marvin Gaye, Bob Marley, Prince, Whitney Houston, Donny Hathaway and Michael Jackson, interspersed with stories.

Maiya Sykes (Postmodern Jukebox front woman and finalist on NBC’s The Voice), joins Morton for the four performances. ICONversations is directed by Kinnik Sky and features musical direction by Grammy Award-winner Dave Yaden.

“We are so thrilled to have such fresh, innovative and creative talent on our stage,” commented Colony Theatre Director of Development Heather Provost. “Reign is a fantastic storyteller and his voice is one of the best around.”

Singer and actor Reign Morton performs four shows at The Colony Theatre in Burbank with “ICONversations.” (Photo Courtesy The Colony Theatre.)

Singer, songwriter, actor and writer, Morton has appeared in films, theater and television. His most notable role was as Cashius Kibideaux on General Hospital. Recent credits include performances as Eddie Murphy in the Whitney Houston biopic Whitney and roles in The New Edition Story, For the Record: Tarantino and Hilton Head Island.

Morton has traveled internationally as a musician in Paris, Japan and Canada.

Director Kinnik Sky is a veteran of stage, television and film. An American Idol finalist, she has appeared in countless plays and musicals over the last 20 years including Dreamgirls, For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow is Enuf and Madea’s Class Reunion. In 2010, she launched her Dazzal Mi Entertainment. Under the company’s banner, Sky has written, produced and starred in several stage productions and web series. To date, Dazzal Mi has received nine NAACP Theatre Award nominations and garnered five wins.

Musical Director Dave Yaden is a Grammy Award-winning singer/songwriter and pianist who has played and written with Josh Kelley, Pierce the Veil, Tonic, Spin Doctors, Tyler Hilton, Lady Antebellum, Ryan Tedder (One Republic) and Mindi Abair.

ICONversations kicks off the It’s Showtime series at The Colony, with Magic Mania opening August 17-20, I’d Enjoy Being A Girl… On Broadway following September 14-17 and A Little Night Music in Concert on September 21-24. The series concludes with An Evening With Fritz Coleman September 29 – October 1.

“In putting together the It’s Showtime series, we really wanted to design programming that would have something for everyone in the community,” said Provost. “I’m so glad we have the opportunity to shine a spotlight on some of the brightest talent out there and give the people of Burbank an opportunity to see some really special performances.”

ICONversations runs Thursday, Friday and Saturday July 20-22 with shows at 8:00 p.m. and Sunday July 23 at 3:00 p.m. Admission is $35 and tickets may be purchased online here or by phone at (866) 811-4111. The Colony Theatre is located at 555 N. Third Street (between Cyprus and Magnolia) in Burbank, 91502. Plentiful free parking is available in the attached parking structure.

Words By Ira Gershwin S’marevelous At The Colony Theatre

Editor’s Note: The play has now neen extended through May 24

The Colony Theatre ends its current season with an out-of-the-park, base clearing grand slam. Playwright and Musical Arranger JOSEPH VASS weaves song and story into an unforgettable evening with a man who had been content to let his brother George enjoy the limelight.

IRA GERSHWIN was a quiet man who had given people something to sing about, even when there were bread lines and battles on faraway shores.

He would never have described himself as a ladies’ man, but his marriage was the s’wonderful, s’marvelous reality behind the love song.

He had showed a famous songsmith how to end his very famous song, he had inspired the marching band of a local university and, during World War II, the Resistance within a Nazi-occupied country had made one of his song lyrics their anthem.

He denied being a poet, but what else do you call someone whose words are still sung the world over nearly a century later?

Elijah Rock, Jake Broder and Angela Teek star in the Colony Theatre Company production of "WORDS BY IRA GERSHWIN," by Joseph Vass, directed by David Ellenstein and now playing at the COLONY THEATRE in Burbank (Photo courtesy  Michael Lamont)

Elijah Rock, Jake Broder and Angela Teek star in the Colony Theatre Company production of “WORDS BY IRA GERSHWIN,” by Joseph Vass, directed by David Ellenstein and now playing at the COLONY THEATRE in Burbank (Photo courtesy Michael Lamont)

JAKE BRODER nails Ira Gershwin the way Hal Holbrook nails Mark Twain. Jake made us wonder why we weren’t aware of such a remarkable person far earlier. Playwright Joseph wondered why as well, and did something about it in spades. And under Director DAVID ELLENSTEIN’s guidance, we saw Ira’s endearing shyness as well as his love for, and mastery of, the demanding poetry of the song lyric.

Brother George Gershwin and a raft of A-list composers of the Great American Songbook (including Jerome Kern, Harold Arlen, Vernon Duke and Kurt Weill) found in Ira a word maven equal to their melodies. Crooner ELIJAH ROCK and Chanteuse ANGELA TEEK show us why. Their rich vocal palettes allowed them to color every one of Ira’s words with just the right sonic hue. It’s no wonder that Elijah had earlier wowed Colony audiences in Breath and Imagination, and that Angela had enthralled East Coast audiences in a tribute to George Gershwin and Cole Porter. Kudos as well to Musical Director and Pianist KEVIN TONEY.

Elijah Rock and Jake Broder (Photo courtesy  Michael Lamont)

Elijah Rock and Jake Broder (Photo courtesy Michael Lamont)

Many of the 26 songs showcased had, as was the practice in their day, lengthy intros with their own lyrics. It was a delight to hear them and to realize they were composed and written with the same care as the main melodies and verses.

Ira was scholarly and shy, a central-casting contrast with athletic and life-of-the-party George, who loved playing one Gershwin song after the other. (At a party, Oscar Levant once playfully asked, “George, if you had to do it all over, would you fall in love with yourself again?” To which George replied, “Oscar, why don’t you play us a medley of your hit.”) Ira’s nephew MICHAEL STRUNSKY remarked that in real life Ira probably couldn’t have been cajoled into performing even one song in front of others (which he does in the play.) But in private, Ira often sang to himself, weighing and testing each word.

Jake Broder, Elijah Rock and Angela Teek star in the Colony Theatre Company production (Photo courtesy  Michael Lamont)

Jake Broder, Elijah Rock and Angela Teek star in the Colony Theatre Company production (Photo courtesy Michael Lamont)

Ira also felt comfortable within his circle of fellow lyricists and composers, many of whom had fled the growing Nazi threat. (Ira’s Jewish parents had emigrated from Russia in the 1890’s, a distinctly unfriendly place for European Jews at that time as well.) Together, they shared their lyrics and challenged each other to never settle for anything less than their best work. And crucially, Ira and his fellow lyricists made it their mission to embrace the distinctively American take on the English language.

As mentioned earlier, Ira denied writing poetry when he wrote song lyrics. (Although a musician friend of mine once said that song lyrics are the only kind of poetry that makes any money.) Ira thought that the need to match the words to the melody disqualified them from being true poems. But I think Ira had done himself a disservice. Excepting free verse, poems do obey structure of one sort or another. Shakespeare invented half of modern English while obeying the strictures of sonnets and iambic pentameter.

I maintain that Ira had mastered the particularly demanding rules of sung poetry, with their concerns for interval jumps, pitch and note length. He had put back the song lyric back into lyric poetry and made the Greek Muse Erato start humming. And when it came to our distinctive voice as melting pot Americans, Ira made it sing and made it zing.

Ira had been in danger of becoming “the man that got away” from our collective cultural memory. But thanks to the creative efforts Joseph Voss and the support of Ira and Lenore Gershwin Trusts, it looks like our love for Ira is here to stay.

P.S. And be sure to check out the trailer for the stage treatment of An American In Paris.

Words By Ira Gershwin continues through Sunday, May 17. Performances are Thursdays and Fridays at 8 p.m., Saturdays at 3 p.m. and 8 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m. The Colony Theatre is at 555 N. Third St. (at Cypress) next to the Town Center Mall. Ticket prices range from $29 to $49 (group discounts available.) For tickets, please call the box office at 818-558-7000 ext. 15 or visit www.ColonyTheatre.org.

(Photo by Ross A. Benson)

(Photo by Ross A. Benson)

(Photo by Ross A. Benson)

(Photo by Ross A. Benson)

(Photo by Ross A. Benson)

(Photo by Ross A. Benson)

Great Theatre Rises Again At The Colony’s The Road To Appomattox

The Road to Appomattox, enjoying its west coast premiere at the Colony Theatre, is flat out brilliant.

If you have even a passing interest in the Civil War, go and see a magnificent General Robert E. Lee facing the final days of the Civil War in April 1865.

If you appreciate more intimate conflicts, go and see a modern-day married couple face their growing disunion as they too follow the road to Appomattox.

Playwright CATHERINE BUSH has woven together past and present so strongly that her play can bear the weight of war, and so tightly that it can hold the small moments of individual grief.

Director BRIAN SHNIPPER and his superb cast make both stories, past and present, compelling. Having the modern-day characters appear on stage before the Civil War-era characters completely exit is also a nice touch, a bow to the sense of presence that many have felt while visiting Civil War sites.

You’ll know something very special is afoot as soon as you see the set: a sweeping, glowing sky behind a forest that, as the occasion requires, can also suggest rustic interiors. Later on, you’ll see the flashes and hear the thunder of battle—theater of war indeed! No detail is overlooked. General Lee’s field desk faithfully reflects the original design, scaled to sit comfortably on the stage. Kudos to DAVID POTTS (Scenic Design,) ORLANDO de la PAZ (Scenic Art,) JARED A. SAYEG (Lighting Design,) DAVE MICKEY (Sound Design) and JOHN M. McELVENEY (Properties Design and Set Dressing.)

Bjorn Johnson and Shaun Anthony star in the West Coast Premiere of the Colony Theatre Company's production of "THE ROAD TO APPOMATTOX" directed by Brian Shnipper and now playing at the Colony Theatre in Burbank (Photo Courtesy Michael Lamont)

Bjorn Johnson and Shaun Anthony star in the West Coast Premiere of the Colony Theatre Company’s production of “THE ROAD TO APPOMATTOX” directed by Brian Shnipper and now playing at the Colony Theatre in Burbank (Photo Courtesy Michael Lamont)

April 1865. In the days leading to the surrender at Appomattox, General Lee (BJORN JOHNSON) still thought he and his subordinate generals could outrace the Union forces, regroup in western Virginia, and make their stand. It wouldn’t be the first time General Lee prevailed over long odds. Yet, as Catherine reminds us in her program notes, General Lee had been opposed to secession. But when “the politicians in Richmond voted to leave the Union, Lee found himself in a horrible predicament; he could either betray his country or take up arms against his home.”

April lived up to its poetic reputation as “the cruelest month.” General Lee had to order the evacuation of Richmond, but panic had already occupied Virginia’s capital ahead of Union forces. The city erupted in flames, looting and chaos. General Lee’s wife was still there, as was the fiancée of his loyal aide-de-camp, Colonel Walter Taylor (SHAUN ANTHONY.) General Lee would not leave the field but did allow Colonel Taylor a brief absence to marry his fiancée, one of many reasons why he inspired intense loyalty and love among his soldiers.

BJORN JOHNSON gives us an exceptional portrayal of a man whose legendary ability to maintain grace under pressure was strained to the breaking point. SHAUN ANTHONY gives us a noble soldier whose devotion to General Lee was palpable, and who feared for others, not himself.

Bridget Flanery and Tyler Pierce  (Photo Courtesy Michael Lamont)

Bridget Flanery and Tyler Pierce (Photo Courtesy Michael Lamont)

Present-day. Dr. Jenny Weeks (BRIDGET FLANERY) knows a thing or two about disorder in an academic sense, being an expert in thermodynamics and it’s infamous Second Law. Understood metaphorically, the Second Law says that there are many, many more ways a thing can go wrong than right.

Jenny confronts a less scientific kind of disorder, the kind that upends a life. For the past two years her husband Steve (BRIAN IBSEN) had been the breadwinner while she earned her PhD. But a grave personal disappointment had made Steve emotionally withdrawn, and they had both avoided discussing why. Then Steve became obsessed with the Civil War, ever since he found the officer’s cap, haversack and mysterious message belonging to his great-great grandfather, Beauregard Weeks, who had been a lieutenant in the Confederacy. Now Steve even wants to be addressed as “Beau” in honor of his hopefully illustrious ancestor.

Jenny’s allowed Steve to drag her to monument marker after marker along the Appomattox Trail, even though she hates history. She’d much rather be at a professional conference back home than enduring some lecture concerning a bygone era.

Steve is becoming increasingly overbearing and obsessed with his ancestor’s past, and Jenny’s becoming tempted by the dashing, PhD-level Civil War expert, Chip (TYLER PIERCE.) Even as jealousy rises up within Steve, he anxiously hopes that Chip may be the bearer of good news concerning his ancestor Beauregard Weeks.

Brian Ibsen, Bridget Flanery and Tyler Pierce (Photo Courtesy Michael Lamont)

Brian Ibsen, Bridget Flanery and Tyler Pierce (Photo Courtesy Michael Lamont)

April 1865. TYLER PIERCE also portrays Captain Russell, a messenger of a grimmer sort. It is one thing for history professor Chip to dispassionately dissect the closing events of the Civil War. It’s another for a Confederacy captain in the heat of battle to tell General Lee of Union troops rampaging through the countryside and Confederacy soldiers dying by the thousands.

General Lee was confronting one dismaying reversal after another. If it wasn’t Mother Nature flooding out bridges, it was the failure of someone down the line to carry out critical orders. All this, as starvation and slaughter stalked his soldiers. The disorder of molecules and men was the seventh character of the play, and it covered canvasses large and small.

Civil War soldiers spoke about “knowing the elephant” as their way of describing the many and varied horrific consequences the Civil War forced them to experience. The Road to Appomattox gives us a glimpse of the “elephant” in its final days when General Lee chose to confront it head on…even as a husband and wife some 150 years later must decide what to do about their own rampaging elephant.


A play of this caliber stays with you afterwards, and indeed many in the audience remained in the theater last Saturday for a Q&A with the cast and crew. TYLER PIERCE explained to a questioner that he was able to swiftly slip into character (from present day history professor Chip to Captain Russell and vice versa) thanks in part to being able to slip into a very authentic Confederate uniform. Kudos to DIANNE K. GRAEBNER (Costume Design.)

A member of the audience believed that had Lee fought for the Union, the Civil War would have ended within four months, not four long years. General Lee’s love of home and military genius arguably made the Civil War of the most destructive wars to befall his home and nation, making him a figure worthy of Greek tragedy.

Bjorn Johnson and Shaun Anthony (Photo Courtesy Michael Lamont)

Bjorn Johnson and Shaun Anthony (Photo Courtesy Michael Lamont)

General Lee had known how the South had tried to extend slavery to the new territories out west, an issue that preoccupied the nation in the decades leading up to the Civil War. But the South did not get bigger. Or better. Had it existed 2,500 years ago, when slavery was the accepted norm, it would have been hailed alongside of Athens. But the 19th century was in the midst of a revolution that would eventually extend participation in government well beyond an oligarchy. By the eve of the Civil War, the South was sterile. It could stubbornly cling to existence, but never reproduce itself.

But perhaps General Lee’s virtues did allow him to triumph in the end. Spoiler alert: General Lee chose to surrender rather than authorize prolonged guerilla warfare, which would have greatly compounded the evils of the Civil War and perhaps, been the suicide of the South. End alert.

There is a second, ironic sense in which Lee triumphed. By making the war as long and terrible as it was, he unwittingly impelled Union soldiers and citizens to seek for a cause that could redeem their terrible sacrifice. That cause, as dramatized by Spielberg’s recent film Lincoln, was the ending of slavery once and for all, by constitutional amendment. Even at that, it was tough sledding for President Lincoln to pull it off. It may have been well nigh impossible for President Lincoln if the Civil War had been short.

There are many more ways a thing can go wrong than right, but we can be grateful that things did not go more wrong as they could have.

Note: I could arguably have used the more neutral term “War Between the States,” avoiding both “Civil War” and “War of Northern Aggression.” But in light of the play, “Civil War” is the better term. For many, the label simply connotes the tragedy of brother against brother, father against son, family against family. Sadly, “civil war” is often an apt metaphor for the spousal dissolutions of our time, when union is a lost cause more often then not.

The Road to Appomattox continues through Sunday, March 15 at The Colony Theatre, 555 N. Third St. (at Cypress) adjacent to the Burbank Town Center Mall. Performances are Thursdays and Fridays at 8 p.m., Saturdays at 3 p.m. and 8 p.m., and Sundays at 2 p.m. Tickets range from $20 to $49, with group discounts available. Call the Colony Theatre Box office at 818-558-7000 ext. 15 or visit www.ColonyTheatre.org.