Category Archives: Theatre

It’s A Hit, It’s A Hit, It’s A Hit! – Merrily We Roll Along at The Wallis

by Tracey Paleo, Gia On The Move

gia on the move theater reviews los angeles

Spilt milk, sour grapes and friendships down the drain. Who would have thought that the most sobering musical ending the year could also turn out to be one of the most satisfying.

Audiences just didn’t understand it back in 1981; the opposite linear format of telling a story backwards, or the need to be so depressing. The Broadway production, then directed by Harold Prince, opened to mostly negative reviews, although Sondheim’s score was widely praised. Critics and audiences alike felt it possibly circuitous and the themes left a sour taste in their mouths. And who wanted sit through a recounting of a person’s failures anyway, right?

But life is not a straight line and the road to the top is as jagged as a meat cutter. And when you ‘arrive’, there’s a very good chance you’ll be the only one who’s made it. In Frank Shepard’s case, “It’s lonely at the top” isn’t so much a catch phrase as it is an excruciating reality.

But the story of how he got there is what oddly is soothing and terribly sad.

Merrily We Roll Along is a musical with a book by George Furth and lyrics and music by Stephen Sondheim. It is based on the 1934 play of the same name by George S. Kaufman and Moss Hart.

The story rolls back over 20 years of the life of Franklin Shepard, once a talented, penniless composer of Broadway musicals, who has now abandoned his friends and his songwriting career to become a wealthy producer of Hollywood movies. Merrily We Roll Along curates the key moments in Frank’s life which point precisely to how he got there and what he gave up (ahem…a lot).

Directed by Michael Arden, what might have been a downer years ago, is now refreshed by no less than Arden’s signature dynamics. The play has air. And choreographed by Eamon Foley it is physically patterned much like a dance, where the chore reveals the leading man after abandoning his love, returning to find that she is dead and he is left to wallow in his own grief.

The performances by the entire cast are so wonderfully naturalistic as they are set in the 70’s. There are more than a few stellar moments in this show notably and especially by Wayne Brady who plays lead character and colleague/friend of Frank, Charley Kringas as well as the leading man himself. Aaron Lazar (Franklin Shepard) delivers a completely likeable Shepard throughout the journey even through the hurtful, neglectful moments. Donna Vivino as Shepard’s other best friend Mary Flynn is so down to earth that even in the crazy there is no lack of empathy. Whitney Bashor as Beth Spenser, Shepard’s wife, adds an interesting perspective after that of Kringas and calls up the question, “Who’s fault really is the dissolution of friendships?”.

Really, though, Merrily We Roll Along, in every way is a hit.

The Play About The Baby is Dangerous and Gorgeous

by Tracey Paleo, Gia On The Move

gia on the move theatre reviews

“If you don’t have wounds, how can you know you’re alive?”

Strange and vast was the mind of playwright Edward Albee as referenced in The Road Theater’s current version of  The Play About The Baby directed to perfection by Andre Barron.

An illusory, complex story on the surface, the play takes the audience down a fundamental path about the deeply painful experience of loss of innocence and immaturity while awakening to suffering, pain, survival and ultimately – the greatest reward of having gone through it all – life.

It’s a giant, all encompassing theme that Albee’s play boldly and deeply addresses through bizarre comedies and intricate precisely manufactured games. Granted permission by the playwright himself to The Road Theatre, Barron moves this play down simultaneous, surreal, sinister and hilarious places.

In The Play About The Baby, we witness a young couple, set in a sort of “Garden of Eden” with only their love for one another to express and explore…until a man and a woman tell the couple that they are here to take their baby and subsequently seek to convince the boy and girl that there was no baby at all.

The couple’s journey is dark and beautiful and startling as it is absurd and even soothing, expressing utterly, the power of human existence.

The Play About The Baby is a gorgeous, dangerous experience, equally performed to excellence by the entire cast, Allison Blaize (Girl), Philip Orazio (Boy), Sam Anderson (Man) and Taylor Gilbert (Woman).

It is hands down one of The Road Theatre’s most extraordinary productions.

The Italian In Me Returns to Theatre West December 3 & 4

gia on the move theatreItalian-Canadian actress Dina Morrone is an adventurous young woman who moves to Rome with grandiose dreams of working in the Italian film business. Her days are filled with countless animated yet fruitless encounters with perverts, priests and producers. When all hope seems lost, she meets the Master himself, the late great Federico Fellini.

“An accelerated full immersion Italian lesson about Cinema, Sex, Saints and Federico Fellini, all set in the Eternal City, Rome…and rendered to [comedic] perfection.”—Dave DePino, Backstage West

Written and performed by Dina Morrone. Directed by Peter Flood

Theatre West, 3333 Cahuenga Blvd. West, in Los Angeles, CA 90068

Two shows only:
Saturday, December 3, 2016 at 8:00 p.m.
Sunday, December 4 at 3:00 p.m.

Hansel and Gretel Bluegrass: A Very Real Fairy Tale

by Tracey Paleo, Gia On The Move
gia on the move fairy tales hansel & gretal

Angela Giarratana and Caleb Foote in Hansel and Gretel Bluegrass
Photo by Cooper Bates

Immediacy.  That is the first thing you get with 24th Street Theatre’s world premiere adaptation Hansel & Gretel Bluegrass, written by Bryan Davidson and directed by Debbie Devine.

Most recognized as the classic Grimm fairy tale, the story may have originated in the medieval period of the Great Famine (1315–1321), which caused desperate people to abandon young children to fend for themselves, even resort to cannibalism. Set here in depression-era Kentucky in the Appalachian coal mining town of Butcher Holler, Hansel and Gretel Bluegrass moves in a sort of other worldly story-telling realm but also has the fascinating element of being historically real.

Narrated by a local radio jockey as an on-air response to a write-in letter from a young boy who shares his private angst about his baby sister in a time of desperate hunger, the production is paired down to a gorgeous simplicity that needs no deep diving for meaning or explanation.

Hansel and Gretel Bluegrass hones in on the difficulties siblings have in their relationships with one another but even more, the co-dependencies, the frailties, the strengths and the resiliency to overcome those difficulties and in this case, extreme circumstance within which the unlikely orphans find themselves. The story is profound and sincere.

Hansel & Gretel Bluegrass is executive director Jay McAdams’ response in part, to the wave of South American children who immigrated parent-less across the U.S. Border several years ago – some of whom landed in the local North University Park neighborhood. And although it does not specifically address that politic, the story offers hints of insight into the reasoning for child abandonment without curing or apologizing for the motives of letting children “into the wild” alone.

Performances by Angela Giarratana as Gretel and Caleb Foote as Hansel are endowed with a naievity that is absolutely darling. Sarah Zinsser as the mountain woman (witch) layers a downright menacing dimension. Bradley Whitford as radio announcer “The Duke” rounds out this production with hillbilly levity that is pure fun, captivating and compassionate. Whiteford’s voice resonates empathy far beyond the structure.

The characters that play the standout roles in this imaginatively amalgamated production are the video, set, sound, lighting, costume and music, arranged respectively by Mathhew G. Hill, Keith Mitchell, Chris Moscatiello, Dan Weingarten, Michael Mullen and Megan Swan, topped off by featured music by The Get Down Boys (Mark Cassidy-banjo, Scott Gates-mandolin, Israel Parker-dobro, Evan Winsor-bass).

Hansel and Gretel Bluegrass is possibly an even-better version than the original.

Now Playing until December 11, 2017.  Check the listing for more information.

 

“Thanks a Lot!” – No Really…My Gratitusical Is Hysterical!

by Tracey Paleo, Gia On The Move

gia on the move musicalsPoor Beryl. All she really wants is to be loved.

Occasionally on the run from the law with mom, mourning drunk encounters with high school boys, instantaneously widowed from her beloved bed-ridden husband, horny and spectacularly unlucky among the Lost Boys of WEHO, stalking the man of her dreams in the Hollywood Hills…nothing seems to satisfy her yearning. Until she finally remembers the advice from her high school gym teacher, “Stay away from the dick!”

The ever fabulous, Miss Beryl Swiver has a new story to tell. And with the help of her mini-Yamaha toting songwriter/musical director, Richard Levinson, she’s changed her tune altogether and expressing it all in her new Thanks a Lot! My Gratitusical one-woman musical journey to herself and back (and then some). It is a tribute to all the ones she loves and love her back most – her audience.

In 12 – plus a “we didn’t prepare an encore” songs – Rebecca Larsen as upwardly mobile, Minelli-esque Miss Beryl Swiver, in primo-camp and bedazzled sarcasm, sings her salacious best while relating a hysterically heartfelt life in classy, comedic cabaret vignettes. You will never experience love and dating the same, again.

Recommended!

Currently Playing at Sacred Fools Hollywood Row
Starring Miss Beryl Swiver (from her own idea)
Book by Richard Levinson and Rebecca Larsen
Music and Lyrics by Richard Levinson
Additional material by Jenelle Riley
Featuring Rebecca Larsen as Miss Beryl Swiver
Directed by Kiff Scholl

Theatre 68 Opens with an Impressive “A Time To Kill”

by Tracey Paleo, Gia On The Move
gia on the move theater reviews theatre 68

Ian Robert Peterson & Bechir Sylvain in Theatre 68’s, “A Time To Kill” Photograph by Steven Jones

Theatre 68 premiered its 2016-17 season on October 14 at its new North Hollywood home with, A Time To Kill, the cutting edge legal suspense thriller adapted for stage by Rupert Holmes based on the 1989 novel written by John Grisham.

Audiences may also recognize this story through the film genre. A Time to Kill was made into a movie in 1996 starring actor Samuel L. Jackson as defendant Carl Lee Hailey along with Matthew McConaughey as young lawyer Jake Brigance, Sandra Bullock as law student Ellen Roark and Ashley Judd as Carla Brigance (Jake’s wife whose character does not actually make it into the play) and a supporting celebrity cast that brought the production critical commercial acclaim.

Set here entirely as a courtroom drama, A Time To Kill is likely hotter than when it was first published. Given the content and when put into context with today’s #BlackLivesMatter movement, the story offers genuine relevance and perspective. None of the imaginable violence nor general racism of the time is missing. Nor is the potency of the relationship between Hailey and Brigance overlooked. It does forgo development of other peripheral alliances however, to solely focus on the present moment drama, a decision that allows a breath-pausing intensity to hover at all times inside the production.

Carl Lee Hailey, a black man, has shot and killed two white men accused of brutally raping and beating his 10-year-old daughter, in the very courtroom where he now stands trial. Jake Brigance sees Hailey’s act as a desperate bid for justice and is willing to risk everything to defend his client’s life. The question asked is, “When is it right to take justice into your own hands?”

A Time To Kill in itself is a gripping story that automatically supports the actors/players revolving around inside the drama. Lead actor Bechir Sylvain’s (Carl Lee Hailey) appeal definitely lends sway to his courtroom likeability as a man in crisis. As does lead actor Ian Robert Peterson (Jake Brigance) whose charm rests in both his passion for justice and naïveté and trust in people. Gregory Thirloway nails the love-to-hate-him/hate-to-love-him District Attorney on the rise, Rufus R. Buckly. And the entire cast definitely steps up this production in every way when possible, including Mercedes Manning (Roark) whose character is written slightly one-dimensional and Gisla Stringer (Gwen Hailey) who really rounds out her husband’s personality much more than her own. John William Young as Judge Omar Noose brings occasional levity that resets the severity.

Only a single moment takes audiences out of this production and that is Jake Brigance’s final summation before the jury. A choice has been made to emotionally ‘lead’ the audience with melodramatic music, which detracts from the tension rather than trusting Peterson to carry the seriousness of the moment on his own. He can and he does. But we lose his 360 surprise.

Otherwise, Director Ronnie Marmo has beautifully set the visuals and the tone, keeping the pace crisp.  The production is also endowed with an outstanding, creatively designed, moving set built by Danny Cistone, that brilliantly becomes multiple locations inside and outside of the courtroom.

A Time To Kill is an acute tragedy-to-triumph drama as produced and for audiences who especially are not yet familiar with the company’s work, an impressive introduction to Theatre 68.

A Time To Kill
Now Playing until November 19th, 2016

by John Grisham
Adapted for Stage by Rupert Holmes
Directed/Produced by Ronnie Marmo
Co-Producers: Liz Izzo & Katy Jacoby
Set Design by Danny Cistone
Lighting Design by Mathew Richter

With: Ian Peterson. Bechir Sylvein, John William Young, Hansford Prince, Greg Thirloway, Mercedes Manning, Peter Ostereli, Paul Thomas Arnold, Gisla Stringer, Heidi Rhodes, Jalil Houssain, Steven Jones, Robert Dominick Jones, Joe Capucini, Jenny Nwene, Christopher Kelly, Caroline Simone O’Brian, Jarrod Robbins, and Steven Wu.

THEATRE 68
5112 Lankershim Blvd
North Hollywood, CA 91601
323.960.5068

Halloween ‘Live On Lincoln’ Miami Beach

Gia on the move theater circusFrom Miami Book Fair to Miami Art Week, The Magic City’s bustling season has officially arrived. Miami’s resident circus cabaret and production company, CIRC X, is a force in the local theatre community presenting uncensored, dazzling work. Catch their extravagantly edgy costumes and interactive performances all over Miami this season!

HALLOWEEN ON LINCOLN ROAD
This year, on Monday, October 31,2016, Lincoln Road takes Halloween to the next level through technology and art by introducing a series of cultural activations to enhance the atmosphere. One of Miami’s most exciting events, Lincoln Road will curate ten DJs across five stages and live performances from Miami’s very own CIRC X. Enhance your Halloween outfit courtesy of free make-up artists and enjoy multiple outdoor bars scattered across the pedestrianized neighborhood. FREE.

#OnLincoln

Gia on the move theater circus