Tag Archives: Victory Theatre

Victory Theatre’s Elijah Blows Audiences Away`

Hold on to your seats. Playwright Judith Leora will blow you away with her west coast premiere of Elijah, a gripping one-act drama with a cast that fully lives up to her Category 5 script.

The set is a nice recreation of TGIF Fridays (Victory Theatre always does a great job with the sets), the sort of room that usually has enough privacy for that breaking-up speech but enough people around to ensure that things don’t get too ugly.  On the wall hangs a picture of two hands with long, bright red fingernails that cradle a cornucopia of fruits and vegetables.

“Nature is red in tooth and claw,” indeed, and is displaying a Texas-sized tantrum, flooding the interstates with torrential tears and scattering trees and roof tops across the fruitless plains.  And so to avoid getting drowned or caught up in the whirlwinds of hurricane Elijah, diverse strangers are seeking shelter on high ground, in the only restaurant still open for business.  Sort of.  Given the circumstances, a number of items are missing from the menu.

Oh, and something’s about to take place at the town’s prison, undeterred by neither rain nor, etc: a serial rapist/killer of young girls is scheduled to fry in the electric chair.

Let’s meet the characters:  Dawn (played by Molly Gray) is ostensibly on a romantic road trip to Galveston.  So why did she head for an obscure Texas town hour from the Gulf Coast?  Her boyfriend Greg (Jordan Wall) is trying to be cool with all this in a “that’s OK, honey” sort of way, but you know he really isn’t. 

Tim (Jesse Merrill) is a gay, atheist New York lawyer out of his element, low on blood sugar and very hangry; Patience (Elle Vernee) is a straight, deeply Christian local.  You know they’re going to clash, but the fault lines between them are not as facile as you might expect.

Rounding out the cast is troubled teen Ashley (Mackenzie Rickaby) who’s the only server and doing the job for the first time, having been drafted by her aunt and guardian Lori (Kathleen Bailey,) a no-nonsense lesbian who runs the joint.

And so commences a hurricane of a different sort, one that rips off masks and makes every dysfunction flap in the breeze for all to see, making the need for mutual respect and forbearance greater than ever… and harder than ever. 

A lesser playwright might have focused on race or sexual orientation as the source of conflict.  Instead, she focuses on what people fundamentally value, and why, while being true to her characters and placating the gods of comedy.  And Leora lets both sides make their point. 

The program notes state that Elijah  “is the story of a young woman’s struggle to overcome her past and move on.”   And that is true enough. But she is also the catalyst for a particularly profound lesson:  Boxer Jim Tyson famously quipped, “Everybody has a plan until they get punched in the face.”  By the end of the play, we might also say, “Everybody thinks they have the answers until experience punches them in their gut feelings.”

It is to the cast’s—and to director Maria Gobetti’s–great credit that by the end of the play, with the winds temporarily abated, we sense that their characters succeeded in hearing that “still, small voice.”

Elijah runs Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 4 p.m. through December 15. Tickets range from $28 to $40.  Senior and group rates are available. The Victory Theatre Center is located at 3326 W. Victory Blvd. in Burbank, CA 91505.  For information and to purchase tickets, call 818-841-5421 or go to www.thecictorythreatrecenter.org.

BTW, another of Leora’s plays that deserve to have their day in New York is Show Pony, which was deservedly the LA Times Critic’s Choice.  When it premiered at Victory Theatre, the mother-in-law’s-tongue potted plant was one of the visual elements on the Mad Men era stage.  The lacerating wit and humor of the play lived up to the symbol.

Show Pony concerns five racially diverse women who are trying to break through the proverbial glass ceiling.  On the surface, it’s a 2.0 version of 9-to-5; there’s even a homage element where the boss is confined to a hotel room, though not by force. In this play as well, Leora goes deeper than the #ME TOO garment rending on the mainstream media. In fact, the boss is, at least by recent standards, progressive.  But beyond—and often behind—unconscious racism and sexism is class prejudice.

At the Victory Theatre, the key character was a striking white woman, and one with height privilege to boot, who grew up in Hicksville (a classist term, we should note.)  So her formative years weren’t in the right neighborhood, with the right sort of folks, to learn the secret handshakes and passwords to get her admitted through the gate to the upper-middle-class communities of success.  (Like Clarice Starling, she needed a knowledgeable mentor, though hopefully one not prone to cannibalism.)  Among other issues, Show Pony explores whether the sisterhood is willing to offer this kind of guidance, and does so with great wit and insight.

The Road to Damascus Leads to Burbank

Victory Theatre Road to Damascus--4

Tony Monaco’s one-man musical, The Road to Damascus, leads to Los Angeles just in time for Easter and Passover.  Inspired by the dramatic conversion of Rabbi Saul of Tarsus – the man who turned from murderer to saint (the Apostle Paul) – and the persecution of Jesus’ followers after His crucifixion, Monaco’s historical portrayal incorporates music, song and dance with Biblical themes, bringing to life this world-changing story in a characterization that shows why biographers refer to the Apostle Paul as “The man who shook the world.”

Press Photo1_Tony Monaco (PHOTO CREDIT_MaraPhotography.com)Years on the Broadway stage emulating stars like Frank Sinatra and Gene Kelly brought stage veteran Tony Monaco (a.k.a. Tommy Morton) to Hollywood, where films at 20th Century Fox, Paramount and MGM gave a promising future.  But a drinking problem always sabotaged his goals.  Tony had never heard of the Apostle Paul until one day in 1975 when he was struck by a blinding light and an awesome vision that left him shaking.  Tony says it was more than just a coincidence. “God had mercy on me when a twenty-one year-old crewmember on the set of ‘70s hit TV detective drama Barnaby Jones – where I’d been working for years as Buddy Ebsen’s Dialogue Director and Script Supervisor – led me in a prayer to ask God to reveal Himself to me. What followed was 17 days of visions, an indescribable awareness of the living God, and a series of miraculous experiences.”

As he pursued this mysterious experience, the life of the Apostle Paul emerged and grew into The Road to Damascus – the musical that he is currently performing with the boundless energy of an actor who’s found the tour de force of a lifetime and just can’t wait to share it.

Press Photo4_TheRoadto Damascus (PHOTO CREDIT_Bob Walker Photography)Playing the role of Saul is an alcoholic actor who can’t remember his first lines on opening night and is ready to quit after his first musical jazz number.  Presented in the tradition of a Broadway theatre one-man show, The Road to Damascus is an innovation as the only one-man show that has ever been performed by an author-composer — an actor who also holds a place in Ripley’s Believe It Or Not for appearing in two Broadway hit musicals within one season before ever taking a dancing lesson.

It’s been 33 years since the original 1981 production backed by his friend, fellow actor and hoofer, the late Buddy Ebsen. Combined with an updated script, new material, and a seasoned heart and soul, Tony Monaco’s masterful and gripping performance is sure to serve as the definitive production of the story of the traveler, St. Paul.

Victory Theatre Road to Damascus-2Monaco has also assembled a new production team, including fellow Broadway song and dance man and award-winning Director/Choreographer/Actor/Acting Coach, Joshua Finkel, to assist him in shaping and updating his original ‘80s direction, staging, and choreography.  Finkel is on staff at the prestigious Academy for New Musical Theatre in North Hollywood – one of the epicenters of new musical creation.  In addition to developing a number of notable original works, Finkel teaches his 12 master classes worldwide and creates and directs one-person performances.  He also coaches award-winning actors on upcoming auditions and role preparation at his Creative Combustion Acting Studio.  Among his many performing credits, he starred on Broadway as Molina in Kiss of the Spider Woman opposite Chita Rivera and Vanessa Williams, and was the live-action model for Prince Eric in Disney’s The Little Mermaid.

Victory Theatre Road to Damascus1Music industry marketing and distribution strategist Dana McElwain is producing “Damascus.”  While certainly not a stranger to musical theatre, McElwain is usually found in the orchestra pit, where he has served for nearly three decades at the helm as pianist/Musical Director for productions in Los Angeles, Nashville, Omaha, and Greeley, Colorado.

No sleeping in the pews during The Road to Damascus with Monaco’s Gospel-infused lyrics which demonstrate a hands-down understanding of scripture and hold your attention captive…all the way “into town.”  Evergreen musical orchestrations created by noted composer Denny Bouchard for Monaco’s first production of “Damascus” are cued up for this remount.

Victory Theatre Road to Damascus--3The Road to Damascus opens April 11, 2014 at The Little Victory Theatre, 3326 W. Victory Blvd., Burbank, California 91505.  Previews are April 4-6.   Tickets are $25 Preferred Seating, $20 General Admission, $18 Seniors, $10 Previews, and are available by calling 800-838-3006, or order online at www.TheRoadtoDamascus.net.  Call for group rates.  Show times are Fridays and Saturdays at 8:00 p.m., and Sundays at 2:00 pm.  The Little Victory Theatre information line is 818-841-5422.


SeaGlass Theatre Presents, A Christmas Twist for the 2012 Holiday Season

By Deborah Dodge

An unusual blend of Charles Dickens’ Oliver Twist and A Christmas Carol, this play parodies and yet still honors the two great stories, while peppering in perfectly placed modern jokes that even the most hip, technologically advanced tween will get.

This comedic gem is highly entertaining, cleverly written and extremely well-acted.  Every word of the play has a purpose. It’s perfect! Writers Doug Armstrong, Keith Cooper and Maureen Morley creatively bring the 17th century characters to life in this funny, whimsical and non-traditional adventure.

Tiny Twist, is ironically played by not-so-tiny, David Reynolds as he opens the play by delivering the legendary line, “May I have some more?”  The sold out audience’s response to this creatively altered character and Reynolds’ dedicated delivery of his lines kicks off the play’s tempo seamlessly.

Even though the play is set to stir up laughs, it still sends the message a la Ebenezer Scrooge, played by the very talented, Lauren McCormack, that karma is well enforced in the world as told through three unconventional, funny, and somewhat ethical, ghosts played flawlessly by Kimberly Van Luin, Alison Blanchard and Chris Wynne.  We even have a visit from the notable Ghost of Marley, played by David G. Peryam whose rich baritone voice rivals that of Mr. James Earl Jones.

While the audience joins Twist and Ebenezer on their well-known and beloved journeys, characters from both plays intertwine throughout the evening as we cheer on Twist and marinate in the impending doom of Scrooge (if he doesn’t change his ways).  Ebenezer’s main target, Bob Crachit comes to life as the ever-endearing protagonist and is played effortless by Warren Davis.

Santa will be at every show.

Lest we forget the infamous pickpockets that influence poor Twist, played by the adorable and funny, Jen Ray (from ABC’s The Middle) and the hilarious Chris Wynne.  The cast plays different characters throughout this contemporary and spirited homage to Dickens.  Random yet, purposefully placed and beloved characters from our childhoods (belonging to other authors) also find their way into the world of Dickens.  (NO SPOILERS HERE)

Paul Stroili plays Bumble, the nephew to our antagonist, Scrooge.  Stroili, who’s comedic timing not only shines through his character, but through his strong directing abilities as he has orchestrated this talented group of actors so well, that the play keeps the audience engaged until the final bow.

A Christmas Twist is playing now until December 16, 2012 at the Victory Theatre Center in Burbank.

SPECIAL DISCOUNT ON TICKETS forALL BurbankNBeyond.com readers!

$10 discount on tickets at all performances from November 16 – 25.  Just go to www.seaglasstheatre.org and use the following code when ordering their tickets:  Twisted1025

The Big Vic Theatre at The Victory Theatre Center is located at 3326 W. Victory Blvd. Burbank, CA  91505

 For more info about Sea Glass Theatre, please call (818)533-8441 or visit www.SeaGlassTheatre.org.