Blogosphere / Way Off Broadway

Jekyll & Hyde

Posted 7/9/2012 10:44:00 AM

Taking a grand musical theater piece and placing it into an intimate space can be a daunting task. While shows in the past have done this to nice effect (Chess, The Color Purple), it is not always an easy feat to manage. This summer the DOMA Theatre Company has chosen to attempt this sort of undertaking by mounting the 20-year-old musical Jekyll & Hyde on a stage that is more suited for intimate dramas than big production numbers. As impressive and honorable as this effort is, it frequently threatens to burst at the seams.

With music by Frank Wildhorn and book and lyrics by Leslie Bricusse, Jekyll and Hyde began as a concept piece in the late '80s.  When it finally had its debut in the early '90s, it did so to mixed reviews, although it was still Tony-nominated. While the show certainly has memorable songs, the book is ...

For the Record: Coen Bros.

Posted 4/9/2012 2:13:00 PM

L.A.’s best theatrical experience—Show at Barre’s For the Record series—continues its rotation of cabaret-style shows with the return of one of its most popular: For the Record: Coen Bros. Taking songs from the film’s soundtracks and rearranging them into a phenomenal interactive concert experience is just one of the many pleasures of this innovative series.

Featuring songs from films such as O Brother Where Art Thou, Fargo and The Big Lebowski, the Coen Bros. would seem at first to be an odd choice for a concert event. But interestingly enough, the music the directors chose for their films perfectly captures the essence of the film itself. What the For the Record casts do with those songs, however, is the real surprise.

Opening with songs from O Brother starts the night off with a rousing good time with the entire cast contributing to various numbers as well as three of the ...

Theatre Unleashed's 'The Spidey Project'

Posted 3/19/2012 12:37:00 PM
Let’s be clear: Julie Taymor and U2’s collaboration train wreck of a success Spiderman: Turn Off the Dark is not playing in Los Angeles. No. But the original and first Spiderman musical is. It’s called The Spidey Project and had an initial run off-Broadway a few years back. Instead of the elaborate and self-serious plot and musical numbers (that frequently had cast members of the big budget Broadway musical in the hospital), this version is strictly tongue-in-cheek, and low-low-low-budget fun.

Playing at Theatre Unleashed’s space at the Studio/Stage in Los Angeles, The Spidey Project is having its Los Angeles premiere from March 8-April 14.  Part parody, part heartfelt musical, this experiment in combining comic book characters with the musical format comes back to us with mixed results.

The story is familiar and simple: Geek social misfit Peter Parker is bitten by a radioactive spider which transforms him from nerd to ...

For the Record: Baz Luhrman & Tarantino

Posted 1/25/2012 9:54:00 AM

The best theater experience in Los Angeles kicks off the year with two of their best shows. Created by Shane Scheel and Christopher Lloyd Bratten, the For The Record series at Show at Barre (located inside Vermont Restaurant in Los Feliz) is a wildly popular cabaret-style production that has only increased in popularity since it’s inception about a year and a half ago. Using the soundtrack songs from various directors' filmographies, the show is a clever combination of acted scenes and amazing vocal performances by some of the best vocalists in Los Angeles.

Using the small space to their advantage, the eight performers (in a rotating cast of 22) dance and sing on small stages, the bar and in between the tables squeezed into the tiny lounge. But what might seem awkward and a bit uncomfortable (it is, but you don’t care) actually makes the experience that much more thrilling. ...

Jesus Christ Superstar

Posted 12/13/2011 10:00:00 AM

In a time when religion and politics seem to be fatefully intertwined, along comes a startlingly relevant musical that is—oddly—40 years old. What began life as a concept album, Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Jesus Christ Superstar became something of a sensation with a popular album and Top 40 hit single. After a fairly successful Broadway run and movie adaptation, Jesus Christ Superstar has been a mainstay in theatres around the globe ever since.

With the arrival of The Stratford Shakespeare Festival production of JCS, however, this is the first time in decades that the play will be headed back to Broadway. Already praised by Andrew Lloyd Webber himself, the new production of JCS is a savvy take that amps up the political aspects of the story and ends with a knowing punch to the gut.

Set in 33 A.D.—but with modern contrivances that relate the story to modern times—the new JCS ...

Cirque du Soleil's IRIS

Posted 9/26/2011 12:41:00 PM

While Cirque shows seem to have found homes in Canada and Vegas, Los Angeles has only ever been a stop-off point for any number of touring versions. But as of Sept. 25, L.A. is now the birthplace to one of its own: Cirque du Soleil’s IRIS

A love letter to all things “film,” IRIS takes the audience on a journey through sight and sound, shadow and light, color and spectacle. It’s not a show with a definitive plot or narrative, but a sort of poem through the many aspects of cinema with a bunch of other craziness thrown in for good measure. It’s a visual spectacular to be sure, although how some of the acts fit into the theme can leave viewers scratching their heads. But that doesn’t mean it won’t wow you just the same. 

On a set that reminds one of a bit of Coney Island-meets-Barnum & Bailey’s-meets ...

Shrek The Musical

Posted 7/15/2011 11:21:00 AM
Continuing the trend of movies becoming musicals and titles of shows adding “the musical” to the end of them to differentiate from the movies they come from, comes the latest: Shrek The Musical.

A hit on Broadway, the touring version of the show has come with a myriad of changes: The book by David Lindsay-Abaire (who wrote the relentlessly depressing play Rabbit Hole) has been re-worked, the sets made simpler and the song order has been changed in an attempt to make the show more streamlined. Luckily I went to see this version with someone who had seen the Broadway production and was able to point out the differences in a compare-and-contrast way. In her words, the humor was dumbed down and the emotional connection seemed a bit lost in the switch-up of songs. She also thought the sets were oversimplified whereas the Broadway version was very intricate. 

But ...

Krunk Fu Battle Battle

Posted 5/23/2011 10:17:00 AM
The dance movie comes to the stage with the East West Players world-premiere hip-hop musical, Krunk Fu Battle Battle. Set in Brooklyn, the oft-told tale switches things up by setting the story amidst an all Asian cast and making it a full-fledged musical rather than just a story with dance numbers.

The show opens with Jean Lee (knockout singer Joan Almedilla) and her son Norman (Lawrence Kao) as they move back to a small apartment in Brooklyn—a far cry from their previous Connecticut address. There, Jean runs into an old high-school friend, Sir Master Cert (Blas Lorenzo), the complex's repair man who harbors not just a crush on Jean, but a bigger secret he hasn’t let on.   

Needless to say, the buttoned-up Norman doesn’t like his new digs and his polo shirt makes him stand out in an area that favors graffiti-inspired T-shirts, beanies and high-tops. As he ...

The Emancipation of Alabaster McGill

Posted 5/18/2011 9:48:00 AM
The topic of gay rights and gay marriage is a hotbed for theater as of late, what with play after play being produced in Los Angeles alone over the past few years since Prop. 8 was passed. And just when you think the subject can’t come up with an original angle, up pops Jeff Goode’s The Emancipation of Alabaster McGill.

Set in 1865, the action takes place in and around the front porch of a house in a Kentucky border town on the eve of the passing of the Emancipation Proclamation. But this isn’t a play about African-American civil rights. No. The emancipation of one particular slave is used as a metaphor for the right of gay couples to marry as well as gay rights in general. 

We first meet the adorable Ethan (Brett Fleisher) and Evan (Matt Valle), two hicks from different towns who have become fast friends. ...

'The Columbine Project' & the Lie of the American Dream

Posted 5/2/2011 10:40:00 AM

It’s hard to say anything bad about a play that has its heart so firmly in the right place that to say anything even remotely negative is to betray it. Not that I have anything that terrible to say about the latest production of the award-winning play The Columbine Project, which, if you haven’t already assumed, deals with the tragedy that occurred April 20, 1999. 

Written by Paul Storiale, The Columbine Project effectively handles a touchy subject with mindful restraint and respect for those involved. At the same time, it does not shy away from showing us the violence of that fateful day, because without it, the horror of what occurred wouldn’t have such a devastatingly lasting effect on the audience. 

The show is spare and simple with a black box set that utilizes few props and set pieces. The story maneuvers between time periods starting with a field journalist ...