Fun with Fringe: The Real Housekeepers of Studio City

Published June 19, 2013 by mickala

June gloom is here, but no worries, Hollywood Fringe Festival will help brighten your day! Every year theater folk crawl out of the wood work to bring us their newest, weirdest, funniest, darkest and quirkiest creations. This season is no different, playing at Hollywood’s Theatre Asylum is the new and creative work The Real Housekeepers of Studio City. Set in a fictional version of Studio City where TV characters are real, where the struggling divorcee’ of “Friends” character Joey Tribbiani, Ashley (Lani Shipman) tries to make her own way. This spirited one-act musical combines catchy songs, a fun cast and a rather outrageous plot.

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With book and lyrics by Heidi Powers and Tom Moore and music by Joe Greene, even though The Real Housekeepers of Studio City will not be heading to Broadway anytime soon, it is a charming look at some of our favorite TV characters and sides of their personalities that we have never seen before. Ashley, with the help of her gay best friend Scot (Ryan O’Connor) begins to prepare for an interview to be on the TV show “The Real Housewives of Studio City”. But in order to do so, she needs a housekeeper, which she currently does not have. After her two teenage children Ethan (Daniel Switzer) and Olivia (Leigh Ann Smith) post an advertisement on Craigslist, a slew of our favorite TV housekeepers come barreling through the door.

Featuring the likes of Lurch (Matt Musgrove) from “The Addams Family” and Rosey the Robot (Gabby Sanalitro) from “The Jetsons”, who happen to be in an odd and somewhat disturbing sexual relationship with oneanother. Their relationship is not what is disturbing mind you, it’s their song “Better with Two”. It is cute at first, but the song is much too long and the jokes and their crude sexual gestures wear thin fast. However, the portrayals of the two actors of the beloved characters are very convincing. Yet, the most convincing portrayal/imitation has to go to Gina Torrecilla who plays the heartwarming Alice from “The Brady Bunch”. Torrecilla must have watched hours of the classic TV show, for her facial movements, gestures and voice are precise. She even has her down to the “oh well” heel raise, Alice always ended a sentence with. It is a performance that makes you smile, especially since her song “The Syndication of Your Mind” is probably one the best in the show.

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Overall this oddball new musical has a lot charm but not a whole lot of substance. With a quirky plot and a very talented cast, what could be a complete disaster is actually quite pleasant and heartfelt. Though some numbers run long, and even with a short run time of 60 minutes, you do feel as if you spent a little too long at an awkward neighbor’s house party. However, these kind of shows are exactly what Fringe is about. Providing a stage and an audience to budding artists and their fresh creative work. So go take in at least one Fringe show and if you’re in the mood for something fun and different why not stop by “Studio City”.

The Real Housekeepers of Studio City plays at Theatre Asylum with limited showings until June 28th.

Fun, Laughs, Song and Dance in “Ionescopade” at the Odyssey theatre.

Published June 2, 2013 by mickala

The lights go down and the three piece orchestra starts in on a ridiculous romp of a tune, complete with slide whistles, bells and many of the classic sound effects one associates with slapstick and vaudeville. This overture sets the perfect mood for Ionescopade, a vaudeville variety-type show, derived from the work of Eugene Ionesco now playing at the Odyssey Theatre. It opens with a silent clown type narrator (Alan Abelew), who portrays the writer of the show. Abelew slinks throughout the show, smiling, and acting as a sidekick to many of the performers. Though at times his little acts are cute, the part is not really necessary and does not add anything to the show. The rest of the cast members, however jump brilliantly in and out of different characters as the scenes are always changing between vaudeville-esque song and dance numbers, to thought provoking sketches, to heart-rendering songs.

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This type of show would fall completely flat if it was not supplied with an absolutely superb cast, but luckily this production is. Though everyone has their strong points, Tom Lowe steals the show, with his velvety voice, stellar dance moves and ability to jump in and out of each scene while not missing a beat. Lowe is often paired with the vibrant Cristina Gerla, who dances and sings her way into your heart, as her big eyes and contagious smile lights up the stage. A personal favorite part of the show, is brought by Andrew Ableson, when he sings the lonely smoky bar tune, “Madeline”. His voice is sublime, and in a song that barely gives room for breathing, he executes it flawlessly.

Though there are many different elements and subjects of the show, the underlying theme is based on war and the idiocy of leadership. Ionesco was a writer in post World War II France and he was one of the prominent figures for the Theatre of the Absurd. So many of his pieces are down right silly, yet some of them really challenge us to think and take a look at the world around us. Though written decades ago, the themes are still relevant today and many of the subjects we can all easily relate to.

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Ionescopade was originally conceived by Robert Allan Ackerman, with music and lyrics by Mildred Kayden. This production has been slightly re-structured from previous versions by the director/choreographer, William Castellino, and he has done a stellar job. Quick paced, eye catching and strongly cast, this fun vaudevillian romp is sure to make audiences, laugh, ponder and applaud with sure delight.

Ionescopade runs Fridays – Sundays with select Wednesday and Thursday performances through August 11th.

“Heart Song” Stomps its Way onto the Fountain stage with Litte Enthusiasm

Published June 1, 2013 by mickala

Sitting down in the Fountain Theatre brings expectations. It is a stellar theatre that puts on high quality shows. Their current production holds even more anticipation with direction by Shirley Jo Finney (In the Red and Brown Water) and a script by Stephen Sachs (Cyrano). Though it is at times humorous and features some great dancing, Heart Song, fails to deliver that fully rounded, wow quality that the Fountain is known for.

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Heart Song brings us Rochelle (Pamela Dunlap), an older Jewish New Yorker,  who is depressed, lost and mourning the death of her mother. What first comes off of as sarcastic wit and charm from the heavily accented Dunlap, soon becomes annoying and a bit pathetic. The play follows Rochelle as she is dragged to a Flamenco dancing class by her Japanese-American masseuse Tina (Tamlyn Tomita). Rochelle moans and groans the entire way there and throughout the class, refusing to try to dance and continuously insisting that she is too fat and old. We wait with anticipation for the moment where Rochelle sees the light, embraces the fierce, vibrant beats of Flamenco and releases her woes and negativity, however that moment never comes. Though she is constantly encouraged by her flamboyant, invigorating dance teacher Katarina* (Maria Bermudez, who also choreographed the play), Rochelle continues to resist and at one point flees the class all together, never to return during the remainder of the play.

The acting in this play is what you cling to. Dunlap throws herself into the highly emotional berating Rochelle. Bermudez is also powerful, and brings a wonderful ferocity with her dance moves and attitude as the vivacious dance teacher. Overall the acting and the dancing are the only true strong points of Heart Song.

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What this play lacks is focus and a true plot. We learn of Rochelle’s troubles and her disability to listen to anyones advise or to even empathize with their problems. We then learn of the hurt and pain in Tina’s past by her mother and father’s experience of meeting in a Japanese American Internment camp. We also learn of Daloris’ (Juanita Jennings) trouble as a breast cancer survivor, who tries to pick Rochelle up with her encouraging, life-affirming words and how Flamenco changed her life, yet Rochelle never seems to get it. At least not until the last five minutes of the play. For some reason, between the time the lights went down and up again between the last two scenes, what everyone in the cast had been trying to tell her for two hours had finally sunk in. What it actually had to do with Flamenco dancing, is not clear.

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There is no question that Sachs is a talented writer. He has an interesting core concept that a hurting, defeated woman has her life changed by Flamenco dancing. However that is not this play. What this play is exactly about is hard to tell. Yet, it is the Fountain Theatre, so though they might not have had a great script to work from, the choreography, lighting, stage design and casting is stellar. Unfortunately this “Heart Song” has no true melody.

** The role of Katarina will be played by Denise Blasor starting June 15th.

Heart Song runs Thursdays- Sundays until July 14th.

A Little Night of Theater: Mar. 27th – 31st

Published March 27, 2013 by mickala

So many must sees!!!

“Complete” – Last Weekend – The Matrix Theatre – Hollywood
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“Songs of Bilitis” – Last Weekend – Bootleg Theater – Los Angeles

**”Chapter Two” – Runs Till Apr. 6th – Little Fish Theatre – San Pedro
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“The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs” – Runs Wednesdays Till Apr. 10th – Theatre Asylum – Hollywood
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“Trainspotting” – Runs Till Apr. 13th – Elephant Theatre – Hollywood
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“Dreamgirls” – Runs Till Apr. 14th- MET Theatre – Hollywood

“Master Class” – Runs Till Apr. 14th – ICT – Long Beach
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“Tomorrow” – Runs Till Apr. 21st – Skylight Theatre Complex – Hollywood

“Mrs Warren’s Profession” – Runs Till Apr. 21st – The Antaeus Company – North Hollywood

“On The Spectrum” – Runs Till Apr. 28th – The Fountain Theatre – Hollywood

**”Paradise” – Runs Till May 4th – Ruskin Group Theatre – Santa Monica
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**”Walking the Tightrope” – EXTENDED Till May 18th – 24th Street Theatre – Downtown
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** = YOU MUST SEE THIS

Taking a “Master Class” with Opera Legend Maria Callas at ICT

Published March 26, 2013 by mickala

Master Class_2There are singers, and then there are performers, people who envelope themselves in the role and are able to convey emotions through song that someone just singing the notes is incapable of. Maria Callas, the famed Opera Singer of the 40′s and 50’s was a true performer. She was known for her fierce ability to throw herself into many of the great female opera roles, as well as a personality to go with that capability. Callas lost her voice after a short career due to her reckless carelessness with her voice. She spent the short remaining years of her life teaching classes to opera students at refined schools such as Julliard. Hard headed, wounded and a genius in her own right she is a fascinating character to observe.

And observe we get to, in Terrance McNally’s Master Class now playing at ICT in Long Beach. You are treated to what it would be like sitting in an auditorium as a student at Julliard watching Callas help tutor opera students. Gigi Bermingham plays Callas to her best ability, trying to capture that star power that shot Callas to stardom, as well as her wounded bird interior. Thoroughly entwined in herself, Callas cannot make it through one student’s song without remembering her own rendition of the piece or claiming that the student will never be one of the greats, never leaving her own name off of the noteworthy list.

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Todd Nielson’s production is slow at times, with Bermingham often pacing back and forth, and at times even leaving the stage at will, trying to get across the difficult behavior that made working with Callas such a bear. However the entire thing is an interesting character study. It is like watching a fascinating wild animal in a strange environment. Callas was not used to teaching, to letting others perform, she could not let go of her own memories and desires.

The cast is exceptionally talented, the three opera students have beautiful voices,  yet the repetitiveness of the singing that comes with a classroom environment does get a little boring. Though the portrayal of Callas is fascinating, it does leave a little to be desired, Bermingham fights to possess the presence Callas was known for, but comes up shy. If you are adverse to Opera singing, there is a lot of it, so perhaps this is not for you. However, if you, like me, are fascinated with taking a look into the life of a genius you may never have known had existed, then head down to Long Beach to take a Master Class with one of the greats.

–Mickala Jauregui

Master Class Runs Till April 14th at International City Theatre in Long Beach.

Do Yourself a Favor and Buy a Ticket to “Paradise”

Published March 20, 2013 by mickala

What do you get when you bring together a holier than thou preacher, an ex-stripper, a small town in the backwoods of America and a reality TV show? Paradise: A Divine Bluegrass Musical Comedy now in its World Premiere at Ruskin Group Theatre in Santa Monica. Full of catchy and hilarious songs, unique characters, an interesting story and an extremely talented cast, Paradise is a refreshing piece of musical theater. Created by Bill Robertson, Tom Sage and Cliff Wagner, this ridiculous romp, is funny, highly entertaining and full of great bluegrass songs.

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We start in the small struggling old mining town of Paradise, where Reverend John Cyrus Mountain (Jonathan Root) stumbles in claiming a desire to save the town with a reality show and a mega church. Meeting hesitation by Louanne Knight (Rachel Noll), owner of the town’s general store and descendent of the town’s most influential people, the Reverend works his magic through his trusty sidekick Chastity  Jones (Nina Brissey). However, Louanne is not convinced by Chastity’s Jesus loving pole dance and continues to refuse the Reverend’s plan. This brings trouble when the crew from Hollywood arrives and expects to be able to start shooting. What ensues is fun, ridiculous and at times a bit raunchy. Touching upon such subjects as religion, sex, and homosexuality this show is not for everyone. However, if you are fine with these subjects and poking a little fun at them, then you will absolutely love this show.

Though there is not a weak link in this cast, Kristal Lynn Lockyer steals the show, as Cinderella  Tiara Applebaum, the town’s “special” citizen who was born in a barn and has fleas. Lockyer is energizing, disgusting and absolutely brilliant, especially with her star turn  number “Light a Bag of S***”. You will be appalled and yet you can’t help but applaud the absolute comic genius that she possesses.

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I saw this production a few days ago and yet the songs are still stuck in my head and I still laugh thinking about it. If you are a long time reader you know that I am a musical theater junky as well as a snob. I am not a fan of a lot of the new musicals popping up, but this show is an extreme exception. With the subject matter I am not sure how wide of an audience this show will have, but with how big “Book of Mormon” has become, who knows. All I can say, is that now that this production has been extended through May 4th you really have no reason to not go see it. However, because of the sheer enjoyment this show brings and the size of the theater, performances have been selling out. So grab a ticket, get ready for a laugh or a few dozen and head on over to Paradise.

–Mickala Jauregui

Paradise runs weekends through May 4th at the Ruskin Group Theatre.

A Trip Down the Tracks with “Trainspotting” at The Elephant Theater

Published March 18, 2013 by mickala

Between the intensity of the performers as they act out the lives of druggies, the choppiness of the script and the thick Scottish brogue the actors have donned, the play adaptation of Trainspotting is shocking, riveting, but at many points very hard to follow and understand. The seat of your pants Productions presentation of this play, currently on stage at The Elephant Theater in Hollywood, is bold, with full male and female nudity, vivid and disturbing props of human feces, urine and bloodied tampons as well as strong language. This is not a show for all audiences but for those who can handle it, it is intense, thought-provoking, and filled with some outstanding performances.

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Adapted from Irvine Welsh’s cult classic book of the same name, Harry Gibson has taken the series of short stories about heroin addicts in Scotland and wrote it as a play, melding many stories in order to repeat characters and have more of a coherent arc. Originally written for only 4 actors, playing dozens of roles, Director Roger Mathey asked for permission to expand the cast allowing for less overlap of characters. This was allowed, and Mathey first brought his version of the play to Los Angeles audiences in 2002 resulting in rave reviews and many awards. Now the production is back, with four of the original cast members re-tackling these in-depth roles with ten more years of life experience themselves.

Trainspotting is a dark look into the lives of four friends whose entire lives are dictated by their heroine addictions. It covers a wide variety of themes that many people can relate to in one way or another. Mark Renton played to brilliant perfection by Justin Zachary, leads the cast in this whirlwind snapshot of this drug hazed group. Set in 1980′s Scotland which provides poverty, the AIDS outbreak and a lack of country pride for the characters to muddle their way through, as they try to embrace what they are living for. They have made conscious efforts to not amount to anything, to spend their lives “trainspotting” which is a term used for people who have too much spare time on their hands.

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The play itself is well staged, generally well cast, with Zachary and David Agranov as Tommy** standing out as the stars of the show. The direction is great for what the script provides. Since this was taken from a series of short stories it comes off as a bit choppy and at times it can be confusing. Mark is recognized as the narrator during the first act, yet the character Alison (Alison Walter) becomes the narrator in the second act which is unexplained and not as interesting.

Overall Trainspotting is a raunchy, in your face play that will definitely feel like a smack in the face. However, this is not necessarily a bad thing. Sometimes we need a good smack in order to ask ourselves what life is about and what we are actually doing with it. For there is nothing like watching a bunch of addicts, waste their lives to make you want to go out and do something with yours.

–Mickala Jauregui

Trainspotting runs weekends until April 13th. Please note that this production contains adult content and cigarette smoking.

**Please note that most roles are double cast and this review is based on the cast seen on Saturday March 16th.

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