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 Comedynow 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.
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.
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.
Looking for a great show to take your friends to over the Holidays, well then this is it! If you want to see something a little more risque than the usual Holiday show then rush over to the MET Theatre and check out their smash hit production of Avenue Q. Due to popular demand the DOMA Theatre Co. has extended the run by almost two months. Read my original review of the production here and see just why it is one not to miss!
Now Playing through February 3rd.
Fridays @ 8 pm: Nov 30; Dec 7, 14, 21; Jan. 4, 11, 18, 25; Feb. 1 (dark Dec. 28)
Saturdays @ 8 pm: Dec 1, 8, 15, 22; Jan. 5, 12, 19, 26; Feb. 2 (dark Dec. 29)
Sundays @ 3 pm: Dec 2, 9, 16, 23; Jan. 6, 13, 20, 27; Feb. 3 (dark Dec. 30)
Sundays @ 7:30 pm: Dec 2, 9 and 16 only
The popular, inappropriate puppet musical Avenue Q has recently released the rights for public productions to be performed. Therefore this is my second review of the musical in the last three months and the third overall production I have seen. It is a musical that brings catchy songs, the universal love of puppets and real life situations together in a comedic and enthralling evening. This musical is filled with many imitations and mocking of real world people and persona’s, therefore the impersonations and representations need to be as accurate in order to be their comedic best. The DOMA Theatre Company has done a stellar job in staying true to the characters and script that calls for stellar puppeteers and the voices to make the characters come to life.
Director Richard Israel has created his cast and production to be as close to the original work as possible. The memorable puppet-like voices that can be heard on the Original Broadway Recording are being very closely represented at The MET Theatre. The talented cast has done a great job re-creating these characters in this hilarious mock Sesame Street. Libby Letlow, Puppet Coach and actress has not only coached the actors to bring their characters to life but she has brought life to the puppets herself.
Playing several characters throughout the show and being the second arm to Nicky and others, Letlow’s expressive puppeteering almost steals the show. It is hard enough creating a character, but the ability to create a character using your own body as well as that of a puppet and making sure both are expressive in the same ways, is a craft all to its own and this cast has captured it.
During the show the main character Princeton (Chris Kauffmann) decides he wants to collect money to help out his friend/girlfriend Kate Monster (Danielle Judovits). During this number, “The Money Song” the cast goes out into the audience and asks for money. It is funny and well done, however what very few people realized is that they are actually collecting money. On your way into the theater there is a tiny sign that states all money collected during the performance will be given to Hurricane Sandy Relief Efforts. This is a fabulous and amazing idea, except that I, like most of the audience didn’t see the sign until leaving the theater. I think this is a wonderful thing they are doing but I do suggest that they make an announcement before the show starts so the audience is aware, because it truly is a wonderful idea.
As mentioned earlier I have seen two other productions of this musical, both from theater companies with more funds and resources then DOMA and I will have to say that as a whole there is not much difference from the quality of the productions. Some of the casting choices I liked better in the other two productions and yes it was obvious in the presentation that this was a smaller theater company and venue. However, what DOMA has is heart and lots of it. No matter what I have gone to see there, the cast is always 100% committed and everyone from the people who greet you, seat you or pour you your drink, are all so enthusiastic to be there and that is infectious. They have truly found their “purpose” in life, and that is to provide musical theater to the Hollywood area.
If you have not seen Avenue Q, then you are truly missing out. It is one the most refreshing musicals to come from Broadway in years. With DOMA’s current production running through December 16th you have plenty of opportunity to see it now, in all of its’ comedic puppet glory.
**Due to the popularity of DOMA productions and the show Avenue Q performances are selling out, please be advised to purchase tickets early.
In 1942 over 100,000 Japanese Americans were forced to relocate into U.S. internment camps due to Japan’s bombing of Pearl Harbor.Today many are not aware of the internment or know very little about how that period affected lives. Famed TV star and social media phenomenon, George Takei and his family were among those interned. Takei is now helping to present this story in the brand new Broadway-bound musical Allegiance, currently in the last week of its run at The Old Globe Theatre in San Diego, CA.
**George Takei, Lea Salonga and Telly Leung
Allegiance follows the Kimuras from their family farm to an internment camp where their family becomes divided over the idea of adopting American patriotism or the nostalgia for their culture and homeland of the elder Kimuras. Sammy (Telly Leung) is the youngest and longs to find his place in the world. He becomes convinced that it is his mission to Americanize himself and those around him, doing everything he can to become a better American. His older sister Kei (Tony Award Winner Lea Salonga) has spent most of her life watching over Sammy since their Mother died. She now finds herself disagreeing with the direction he is going in and becomes even more perplexed as their Father Tatsuo (Paul Nakauchi) disobeys all orders and refuses to sign a patriotic testament, staying true to his heritage. The family struggles to remain together over their period in the camp and are ultimately separated when Sammy leaves to fight in the war.
**Lea Salonga and George Takei
The story is compelling and beautifully written. Book writers Marc Acito, Lorenzo Thione and Jay Kuo (who also wrote the music and lyrics) have captured a warming spirit and unyielding determination that captivates the audience from the moment the curtain rises. There may still be some kinks to iron out, but those lie mostly within the songs. Though Kuo’s music is beautiful, his lyrics seem forced. At times there appears to be too much to say in one song. There are some conversations that happen in a sing-song fashion, where they might be more powerful in a normal conversation before the song.
Where the passion and captivation of this piece truly lies is with the phenomenal cast. Led by the extremely talented Salonga the cast brings humanity and character to this heart wrenching story. Leung is mesmerizing and inspiring as the energetic, hope-filled Sammy. He is young and vibrant and you long for him to find his dream and go down the right path and ache when he takes the path that leads him away from Kei and the rest of his family. There is not a single cast member that is not strong and beneficial to this production. We can only hope that the cast stays with the show through the Broadway opening because multiple Tony nominations are in this shows future if they do.
Though the run at the Old Globe is coming to a close the journey of this show is just beginning. Slated to open on Broadway in order to be eligible for the 2013 Tony Awards, Allegiance is bound to touch audiences and inspire young people in many ways. Helping to give a voice to the American past in hopes that our future will be different. Though it may not be absolute perfection this shows holds many positive attributes and is one not to be missed.
Currently New York City and Los Angeles have one very big thing in common, the hottest ticket in town. The Book of Mormon opened at the Pantages Theatre in Hollywood earlier this month and is running a muck through November. There is so much hype around this practically sold out run in Los Angeles, that as soon as the lights went down and the orchestra struck the first note the whole theater erupted in excitement. The hilarity that followed did not disappoint. Though at times the Matt Stone and Trey Parker humor that has become famous through “South Park” did go on a little long the musical lived up to the media frenzy it has created.
The subject is one many people can relate to, religion and those who take themselves much too seriously. The opening number “Hello” which features dozens of Mormons ringing on door bells selling the word of Christ as the Mormons see it get the audience laughing and hooked from the very beginning. The story follows two young Mormons, Elder Price and Elder Cunningham, as they are assigned to Uganda, Africa to preach the word to the citizens there. The story becomes completely absurd, peppered with reality, as the Mormons come face to face with a vicious general, pessimistic Africans and the reality of doubting their faith as they have always known it. With no ability to do the story justice and not wanting to ruin the jewels of the plot I will leave the rest unsaid.
Parker and Stone teamed up with Robert Lopez of the Broadway smash hit “Avenue Q” to create the newest Broadway phenomenon. Full of upbeat songs, crazy dance numbers (all with rather feminine hand gestures and high kicks) it is a solid musical. The script seems to be well written, but in all honesty it was at times hard to understand. The songs, especially those sung by the actors playing the Africans, were hard to make out, over the extremely loud orchestra. I was sitting in the balcony so perhaps a closer seat does the lyrics and words justice. Listening to the soundtrack later I was able to catch some of the witty words and only then truly appreciated the hilarity of this absurd but fun show.
(“Hello” as presented at the 2012 Tony Awards)
Overall the cast is phenomenal. Full of Broadway veterans, including Tony Nominated Gavin Creel, the songs and dance numbers are big, fun and well performed. Jared Gertner is loveable as the socially awkward Elder Cunningham, especially in the number “Man Up”. The whole cast knows the audience is paying around $100 a seat, so they make it worth it. This production is mostly sold out and the entire tour itself will most likely do the same. I suggest if you would like to see this show to book it now. The tour is just beginning, so check here to see the cities it will be coming to. Overall, if you are a fan of raunchy and inappropriate humor, making fun of real people then go for it; you will laugh your head off. If you are like me and find yourself turning a “South Park” episode off after maybe 10 minutes, you will still find it funny, but may get tired during the drawn out second act. However, if you are easily offended, DO NOT SEE THIS SHOW. It is politically incorrect and extremely explicit, it is not a show to take your children to, but it is a show that everyone will be talking about for years to come. It is up to you if you wish to be a part of that conversation.
Some musicals are meant to make you laugh, some make you cry and some are made just so you can have fun. Xanadu is the latter; adapted from the preposterous and utterly strange 1980’s cult classic movie starring Olivia Newton-John and Gene Kelly. To prepare myself for DOMA Theatre Company‘s latest production, I suffered through the 90 minutes of bizarre non-sense that is the movie. Luckily the stage version is immensely more entertaining than the movie, because it take parts of the movie and presents it as a completely ridiculous comedy whilst poking fun at the era it was born out of.
Featuring some fantastic ’80’s classic music, appropriately psychedelic costumes, actors who fit their roles perfectly and very witty dialogue, Xanadu is quite an entertaining evening. DOMA has not always received great reviews from me, but I am pleased to say that this time they have delivered something I highly recommend. It is not a dose of normal musical theater, and a thorough story with beautiful musical numbers is not what Xanadu is about.
Xanadu is the story of Clio (Lovlee Carroll), one of the 9 daughters of Zeus who is a muse sent to inspire Sonny Malone (Matt O’Neill). Sonny is a typical Venice, CA surfer dude who wants to be a painter but has no idea how to do that. Clio goes undercover as an Australian roller skater named Kira, and brings Sonny together with someone she had been a muse to some 40 years earlier, Danny Maguire (David Michael Trevino) in order to open up a roller disco. (How VERY ’80’s). Throughout the show, Clio’s sisters, two of them played to FAB-ulous hilarity by Alan Lee and Bradley Sattler, weave in and out helping and hindering her progress.
The plot itself is pretty absurd and not to be taken very seriously by the audience or the cast. Ultimately what you need to know about this show is – it is a fun musical and DOMA is having a ball with it. Under the direction of Hallie Baran, the actors are playing it to the extreme and it works. Xanadu is not a musical you go to for phenomenal voices, though Trevino and Carroll do have them. Nor is the dancing out of this world, though Lee’s high kicks and constant splits are no less than incredible. The skating is fun, the music will get you moving and the lines coupled with the comedic timing of the cast will give you plenty to laugh about.
Xanadu is one of DOMA‘s best productions and it plays at the MET Theatre in Hollywood Friday through Sunday until October 7th.
When tackling a well-known Tony Award winning musical, local theater companies can often come up short and seem nothing more than a group of community members living out a long lost dream. Occasionally however, there are theater companies that are capable of putting together a stellar cast and forming a production worthy of the Broadway material they are presenting. 3-D Theatricals is that special company who does just that and more. Their recent production of Avenue Q, which is now closed, was flawlessly hilarious in every way it was supposed to be. Having seen the professional national touring company a few years ago at the Ahmanson; I can say that the quality between the two productions were very similar.
3-D Theatricals is a newer theater company that came about in 2009. They have a permanent home in Fullerton but have recently joined forces with the Redondo Beach Performing Arts Center to bring quality theater to the South Bay. I am a hard person to please when it comes to musical theater. I have followed it for over 20 years, have studied it for almost just as long and have seen so many shows in so many cities; I can recognize amateur theater within a single poorly sung note. This my faithful readers, is not amateur theater. It is professional theater at prices that almost anyone can afford, in a venue that gives pretty much everyone a good seat.
Though Avenue Q is no longer playing, 3-D Theatricals has two productions left this season, I Love A Piano and Hairspray; and they have a fantastic line up for next year. They will bring some huge musicals to the stage and I have every bit of faith they will bring them with the enthusiasm and impeccable talent that they gave to Avenue Q. Check out their schedule in both Fullerton and Redondo Beach for their upcoming shows.
Side note: Avenue Q is a fantastic show and I highly suggest you look into it. (If you are of a mature age and love to laugh at inappropriate things).