Tag Archives: play

“A Midsummer Night’s Dream” at the Buena Vista Library

The Burbank Public Library invites the public to spend a magical evening outdoors with a live performance of William Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” on Saturday, September 20.

Pre-show events begin at 4:00 pm with amazing acrobatic performances by E=MCirque followed by the show at 5:00 pm. Bring a chair or blanket and enjoy this free family-friendly performance of Shakespeare outside of the Buena Vista Library located at 300 N. Buena Vista Street.

Shakespeare at Play and the Burbank Public Library present this performance in conjunction with The Big Read grant funded by the National Endowment for the Arts and Arts Midwest. The Big Read is a community-wide program designed to revitalize the role of reading in American culture by exposing citizens to great works of literature and encouraging them to read for pleasure and enrichment.

For further information, please call (818) 238-5620.

You’ll Fall For Colony’s “Falling For Make Believe”

The Colony Theatre ends its “Season of Premieres” with a base-clearing home run. Falling For Make Believe combines terrific Broadway song-and-dance with a compelling drama of the life of Broadway lyricist Lorenz Hart.

As fans of Broadway know, before there was Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein there was Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart. From 1927 to 1943, composer Rodgers and lyricist Hart gave us many of the Great White Way’s most memorable songs.

For a gripping hour-and-a-half, Saturday’s audience heard a glorious 21-rendition salute: “Bewitched,”  “Blue Moon,” “Falling In Love With Love,” “I Could Write a Book,” “I Wish I Were In Love Again,” “Isn’t It Romantic?,” “Johnny One Note,” “The Lady Is a Tramp,” “Manhattan,” “Mountain Greenery,” “My Funny Valentine,” “My Heart Stood Still,” “Nobody’s Heart,” “Pal Joey,” “Sing For Your Supper,” “This Can’t Be Love,” “Where or When,” “With a Song In My Heart,” “You Are Too Beautiful,” “You Mustn’t Kick it Around” and “You Took Advantage of Me.”

The singing all by itself is worth the price of admission. KUDOS to MUSICAL DIRECTOR KEITH HARRISON and CHOREOGRAPHER LISA HOPKINS, as well as the superb cast.

Some playwrights might have been content to lean on the song-and-dance and merely concoct a frothy romance. Perhaps they would have Rodgers and Hart, a la Hope and Crosby, vying for the attentions of the beautiful ingénue giving their songs wings.

Book Writer Mark Saltzman & Colony Artistic Director Barbara Buckley. (Photo by Ross A. Benson)

Book Writer Mark Saltzman & Colony Artistic Director Barbara Buckley. (Photo by Ross A. Benson)

But PLAYWRIGHT MARK SALTZMAN had deeper ambitions. He was determined to tear down the curtains of censorship that separated the enduring Broadway song lyrics from the fragile human being who penned them.

You see, Lorenz Hart was a homosexual. In 1920s New York, this wasn’t too bad a problem, especially for a celebrity like Hart. The speakeasys were as tolerant of gay display as they were of the hip flask. But after Prohibition was lifted, the now-legal bars—in a kind of quid pro quo—were obliged to bar “deviants” from being their patrons. The gays of that era had to retreat to makeshift bars of their own, often so small that they came to be nicknamed “closets.”  “The love that dared not speak its name” was also a love that families dared not allow written records to expose. Diaries, letters, all such evidences of same-sex activity got hurled into the fireplace.

But in spite of key documents (if they existed) being forever lost to history, Mark Saltzman has managed to give us a far truer glimpse into the life of Lorenz Hart than any of the official stories that appeared following his death in 1943. Falling For Make Believe shows us a life of brilliant achievement and crushing doubt, of easy liaisons mixed with deep distrust, of users and genuine friends. But one can easily believe that there was no one in Hart’s life that fully understood his inner torment.

Cast of Falling for Make Believe Opening Nite. (Photo by Ross A. Benson)

Cast of Falling for Make Believe Opening Nite. (Photo by Ross A. Benson)

It falls to the cast, as brilliant in their character portrayals as they are in their singing, to show us what the party line has withheld. BEN GOLDBERG (Lorenz Hart) gives us a heartbreaking portrayal of a man whose lyrical genius was inseparable from his longings. BRETT RYBACK (Richard Rodgers), himself a composer, really conveys the disciplined genius of Rodgers.

TYLER MILLIRON (Fletcher Mecklen) had the difficult challenge of embodying the several ways in which an ambitious gay man of closeted days might have related to a gay celebrity. It’s a tribute to Tyler, as well as DIRECTOR JIM FALL, that he keeps all of the possibilities, noble and profane, alive.

JEFFREY LANDMAN (Doc) and REBECCA ANN JOHNSON (Vivian Ross) gave us sensational song interpretations that should be heard one day in New York and London. MEGAN MORAN (Peggy, Dorothy Rodgers, Policewoman) juggled her wildly diverse roles like a pro, and lent several songs a wonderful comedic note.

Harry Truman once said, “The only thing new in this world is the history you don’t know.”  Falling For Make Believe offers something very new indeed. And we leave suspecting that the lyrics that make our hearts sing first had to make Lorenz’ heart break.

Continues through Sunday, May 19. 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 $40.  The Colony Theatre is located at 555 N. Third St, at the corner of Cypress. For tickets, call the Colony Theatre Box Office at 818/558-7000 ext. 15 or go online at www.ColonyThreatre.Org.

Brett Ryback, Rebecca Ann Johnson and Ben D. Goldberg star in the world premiere musical FALLING FOR  MAKE BELIEVE at the COLONY THEATRE. (Photo Courtesy Michael Lamont

Brett Ryback, Rebecca Ann Johnson and Ben D. Goldberg star in the world premiere musical FALLING FOR MAKE BELIEVE at the COLONY THEATRE. (Photo Courtesy Michael Lamont

Rebecca Ann Johnson and Brett Ryback star in the world premiere musical FALLING FOR  MAKE BELIEVE at the COLONY THEATRE. (Photo Courtesy Michael Lamont)

Rebecca Ann Johnson and Brett Ryback star in the world premiere musical FALLING FOR MAKE BELIEVE at the COLONY THEATRE. (Photo Courtesy Michael Lamont)

Brett Ryback and Ben D. Goldberg star in the world premiere musical FALLING FOR  MAKE BELIEVE at the COLONY THEATRE. (Photo Courtesy Michael Lamont)

Brett Ryback and Ben D. Goldberg star in the world premiere musical FALLING FOR MAKE BELIEVE at the COLONY THEATRE. (Photo Courtesy Michael Lamont)

Ben D. Goldberg and Rebecca Ann Johnson star in the world premiere musical FALLING FOR  MAKE BELIEVE at the COLONY THEATRE. (Photo Courtesy Michael Lamont)

Ben D. Goldberg and Rebecca Ann Johnson star in the world premiere musical FALLING FOR MAKE BELIEVE at the COLONY THEATRE. (Photo Courtesy Michael Lamont)

Tyler Milliron and Ben D. Goldberg star in the world premiere musical FALLING FOR  MAKE BELIEVE at the COLONY THEATRE. (Photo Courtesy Michael Lamont)

Tyler Milliron and Ben D. Goldberg star in the world premiere musical FALLING FOR MAKE BELIEVE at the COLONY THEATRE. (Photo Courtesy Michael Lamont)

Put “NATIVITY: THE MUSICAL” in Next Year’s Holiday Stocking

By Greg Simay
BurbankNBeyond

Looking back at the 2012 holiday season, one of the high points for me was the charming Nativity: The Musical, performed by members of the Westminster Presbyterian Church here in Burbank.  Cecil B. De Mille had a cast of thousands. Nativity: The Musical had a cast of dozens, and they were all delightful. Oh, and there were a couple of real-life ponies as well.

L-R: Nick Rogus and Julia Newton play Joseph and Mary in Nativity! The Musical (Photo Courtesy of Paul Rogus)

Like the old saying, the show made you laugh and it made you cry. Actually, it made the packed audience laugh a lot. The warm up was a send up of beloved holiday movies (Wonderful Life, A Christmas Carol, etc.) on the large video screens. Then came the live acts: a snappy rendition of Star of Bethlehem, followed by comedy skits and Broadway songs adapted to the season. A small sampler:  “Virgin Mary’s The One I Love”,  “We Call The Babe Messiah”, “Soothsayer, Soothsayer” and “Cousins, Cousins” (the Virgin Mary and her older and very pregnant cousin Elizabeth, remember?).  There’s even a Joseph rapping “Word…of God”.

All the humor yielded gracefully to the moment evoking reverence within the Christian community: the birth of Jesus. A particularly beautiful song was “A Baby Changes Everything”.  (Mary’s Baby certainly did.)

The one somber moment of the musical was the story of the Holy Innocents, the two-year-old male babies King Herod killed in an attempt to also kill the baby Jesus, whom he saw as a future rival for his throne. Some scholars question whether such an event actually occurred, but in light of modern day atrocities against innocent children, the Biblical account is all too plausible.

But the dominant tone of Nativity: The Musical was joyous fun. It’s as if Judy Garland and Mickey Rooney had looked at each other and said, “Let’s put on a show! About Christmas! And we’ll get all our friends in church to join in! Plus a pet or two!” As writer/lyricist/co-director GREG BALDWIN put it, “We need to take our faith seriously, but not ourselves seriously.”

Put Nativity: the Musical on next year’s list of feel-good holiday activities. Each year the skits and songs  are freshly conceived. And if you have friends or acquaintances that think Christians are killjoys, take them with you to this show. It will do more to dissolve their prejudices than a hundred sermons.

Look for Nativity: The Musical in early December next year at the Westminster Presbyterian Church, 542 N. Buena Vista Street, Burbank. Call (818) 842-5264 or go to www.westpresburbank.org.

‘American Fiesta’, OLE!

By Greg Simay
BurbankNBeyond

American Fiesta is the kind of entertainment that makes it clear why The Colony Threatre  continues to be one of the nation’s top theatrical venues.

Red, blue, yellow green.  Many colorful plates and bowls on shelves.  A geek chorus of three flat screens. Two rolling tables separating and joining.  A pathbreaking play from a man (PLAYWRIGHT STEVEN TOMLINSON) with one foot in the spiritual and the other in the profane. And one amazing actor (LARRY CEDAR) turning words into 80 uninterrupted minutes of magic.

American Fiesta’s Director David Rose, Main Lead Larry Cedar Colony Artistic Director Barbara Beckley and Playwright Steve Tomlinson, during opening nite gala. (Photo by Ross A. Benson)

Stephen (LARRY) has hit the big four-oh. He’s going to marry his male partner Leon Alvarez in Vancouver, Canada. (“I’ve never been to Vancouver. I just feel better knowing it’s there.”) But first there’s the trip from their “tribal enclave” in Austin, Texas to Stephen’s tradition-minded parents in Oklahoma. With voice and gesture, wit and humor, LARRY masterfully evokes his no-nonsense lover, his warm-hearted mother and still-waters-run-deep father.

But American Fiesta is more than an engaging domestic drama. (Reader alert: Some of you may prefer to see the play before absorbing anyone else’s take on its deeper meaning.)

American Fiesta shows us how we can reclaim our lives by reclaiming what our possessions mean to us. Especially iconic possessions like American Fiesta cups, dishes and bowls, introduced in the 1930s to bring colorful cheer to families under grey Great Depression skies.  DIRECTOR DAVID ROSE brings out this theme clearly without hitting us over the head with it.

American Fiesta’s Director David Rose, Artist’s Larry Cedar and Playwright Steve Tomlinson, during opening nite gala. (Photo by Ross A. Benson)

Stephen’s on the staff of Neurometrics, an outfit that figures out what buttons to push in our brains so that we to punch the right holes in the voting booth. There are lots aplenty as the three flat screens show us how marketers also exploit brain chemistry to make us reflexively crave any product…including American Fiesta ware.

But an old antiques dealer (also wonderfully evoked) challenges Larry to ask himself why he really wants a particular American Fiesta bowl.  And that question engages his brain’s more reflective side, one that can find meaning in chips as well as unblemished surfaces. Larry begins to fully possess his life by drawing out what its events mean to him. And in so doing, his American Fiesta set becomes an extension of his deep personal connections.

The colors red and blue have come to stand for opposed constellations of political and social attitudes. Watch what Stephen does at the very end of this remarkable play.

Continues through Sunday, October 21. Performances are Thursdays and Fridays at 8:00 p.m.; Saturday’s at 3:00 p.m. and 8:00 p.m.; and Sundays at 2:00 p.m. Ticket prices range from $20.00 to $42.00. Student, senior and group discounts are available. For tickets, call the Colony Theatre Box Office at 818/558-7000 ext.15 or online at www.ColonyTheatre.Org.

‘JUSTIN LOVE’ Conquers All at the Celebration

By Greg Simay
BurbankNBeyond 

 Justin Love is a hoot and a half.  It’s a gay romp (in the old as well as modern sense) and straight up entertainment. No matter which team you’re batting for, you’ll admire the game that Justin Love puts together: a media-savvy set, upbeat music, snappy choreography, sidesplitting characters and lead actors who wear the play’s serious message lightly on their matinee idol shoulders.

Tyler Ledon and Adam Huss star in the world premiere musical, JUSTIN LOVE, now playing at the Celebration Theatre. (Photo By Michael Lamont)

Movie heartthrob Justin Rush (ADAM HUSS) has the fat bank account, has the slender wife (Amanda, played by CARRIE ST. LOUIS) and has a summer action blockbuster about to premiere.  Justin’s fans are all a-twitter and TMZ has him smoking in their media magnifying glass.

Justin’s gay. Amanda’s restless. And no one’s the wiser…yet.

Then love comes and bangs on the closet door. Justin falls for Midwestern boy Chris Andrews (TYLER LEDON), the star-struck assistant of Justin’s publicist Buck (ALET TAYLOR), who nearly steals the show with her uproarious portrayal of a Hollywood spinmeister. Amanda falls for old high school sweetheart Mitch Matthews (CIARAN MC CARTHY), now a tabloid hustler who shoots reputations with his camera.

Carrie St. Louis, Ciaran McCarthy, Tyler Ledon, Adam Huss, Terrance Spencer and Grant Jordan star in the world premiere musical JUSTIN LOVE, now playing at the CELEBRATION THEATRE. (Photo By Michael Lamont)

Other show-stealing thieves include Chris’ roommates Donovan (TERRANCE SPENCER) and Syd (GRANT JORDAN), who convey the charming frivolity of lives uncaptured by life-changing love. But ADAM and TYLER pull off the most demanding roles: a romance that is credible and compelling without being too heavy for Justin Love’s playful tone.

Will TMZ find out the terrible truth about Justin? “Honey it’s Hollywood. You hear it before it happens.”  Yes, this just in… Will love triumph anyway? Hey! It’s a romantic comedy.

Kudos to the creative team of MICHAEL MATTHEWS (Director), JANET ROSTON (Choroeography), GREGORY NABOURS (Musical Direction),  LORI SCARLETT (Music and Lyrics), PATRICIA COTTER (Co-Book) and DAVID ELZER (Co-Book, Co-Story, producer). They’ve created a court jester of a play, telling truth to Hollywood royalty and their fawning fans. (For a further discussion of gay movie stars coming out, see companion article “Coming Out of the Glass Closet”.)

Continues at the Celebration Theatre through Sunday, November 18. Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at 8:00 p.m.; Sundays at 2;00 p.m. Located at 7051B Santa Monica Blvd. Tickets are $34.99. Call (323) 957-1884 or visit www.celebrationtheatre.com.

‘SLOW DANCE IN MIDTOWN’ – A Fast Ticket to Unforgettable Theatre

Nick Stabile and Don Swayze star in the World Premiere Play "SLOW DANCE IN MIDTOWN," written and directed by Elizabeth Sarnoff and now playing at the Whitefire Theatre in Sherman Oaks. PHOTO CREDIT: Ty Donaldson

The fully realized dive of a New York bar draws you in, even before the play begins. (“Nice set”, remarked a woman as she took her seat.)  And the actors keep you there for a riveting two hours of heightened reality.  Writer/director ELIZABETH SARNOFF brings the same genius to the stage that raised the bar for television (Lost, Deadwood, Alcatraz).  Slow Dance in Midtown is a triumph and a vibrant rebuke to the tired cliché that the LA stage is glorified auditioning for film.

Sal (NICK STABILE) and Frank (DON SWAYZE) are family members stretched on the rack of opposing, equally compelling loyalties. Former best friends Maria (MEREDITH SCOTT LYNN) and Kate (TRICIA SMALL) confront a searing betrayal and volcanic feelings no longer dormant.  The masterful unfolding of the characters and their

Meredith Scott Lynn and Tricia Small star in the World Premiere Play "SLOW DANCE IN MIDTOWN" PHOTO CREDIT: Ty Donaldson

predicaments is a seductive slow dance of language, leading us around the stage floor to every corner of emotion.

Slow Dance in Midtown has a richness that repays a second visit. With artful recollections of past atrocities and sly allusions, Sarnoff draws the connection between the world’s unforgettable atrocities and how we face the enduring pain from those we love. In her Director’s Notes, Sarnoff wants to celebrate the miracle that “through all our hurt, our wounds our incredible, fragile and flawed humanity, we somehow find the strength to keep trying”.

Slow Dance in Midtown summons that miracle with inspired acting and language beautifully profane and brutally honest.

Tickets $20. Continues Thursday, Friday and Saturday at 8:00 p.m. thru May 12 at the Whitefire Theatre, 13500 Ventura Blvd.  Call 818-990-2324 or visit slowdanceinmidtown.com.

Luther Auditorium Opens With ‘The Music Man’ After Major Renovations Completed

The project started several years ago after a vision was thought of and with the help of parents, grandparents, community members, and the staff of Luther Middle School with at last but not least the Partnership of Warner Bros. Studio Facilities, a new, renovated auditorium is in place.

There is new seating, new lighting, new sound equipment, new spotlights, a refinished stage floor,and almost everything you would find in a BroadwayTheater. The project cost in excess $30,000 and with cookie dough sales, wrapping paper sales and and grants from Burbank Arts for All, as well as other donations, last night the vision was seen when the curtain opened for the opening night of ‘The Music Man’.

The house was packed with Warner Executives and parents and friends alike. The show business term ‘Break A Leg’ means ‘ Good Luck’ on opening night and for every other performance that will be held in the new auditorium.

 

Scene 1 A Railway Coach in the opening scene of 'The Music Man' preformed by Luther Middle Schools students Friday evening.(Photo by Ross A. Benson)

Students at Luther Middle school preform 'The Music Man' in their newly refurbished auditorium. (Photo by Ross A. Benson)