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