I caught one classic, age old production, on the Labor Day weekend
A popular, long running zany love story … abundant with “off beat” characters and classic recognizable songs, true love wins out in the end.
Directed playfully by Charlie Mount (assisted Eliott Schwartz) this endearingly sweet love story has played out to theater romantics for half a century. It ran “Off Broadway” for 42 years (1960-2002) then reopened in New York in 2006, and is still going strong! A story of enduringly hopeful “true love,” we witness the blossoming romance of two teens (Matt and Luisa) who have been next door neighbors all of their lives. Once their now approving fathers attempt to unite them … they rebel and go their separate ways. As the bitter experiences of life expose them to painful disillusionments … they eventually reunite more deeply in love than ever before. A simple and symbolic tale loaded with “over the top” antics, and life messages, most theater lovers have seen this play more than once. As Matt and Luisa, Molly Reynolds and Joey Jennings are lively and lovable, and both are impressive singers. As their overly zealous fathers, playing “meddlesome matchmakers,” Steve Nevil and Roger Kent Cruz are a heart-touching riot! As the two “over the top” actors hired by El Gallo to promote the young couple’s romance, Yancey Dunham and Don Moss are delightfully “nuttier than fruitcakes!” The agelessly stunning Lee Meriwether is haunting as “the mute,” wordlessly overseeing the shenanigans. Now here’s the problem … Lukas Bailey as the traditionally dapper and devilish El Gallo, who carries the entire play … fell disappointingly flat for me. Although a good actor in other roles I’ve seen him perform, this time he lacked the dashing focus and “campy” finesse of this character. Wearing a most unattractive costume … “El Gallo” is usually a vision, in a billowing white shirt, black leather vest, and pants … Also, he must achieve a more commanding presence, during his vocal song performances. Maybe just “opening night jitters?” I hope so. The 15 familiar story telling songs are a joy, written by Tom Jones (book and lyrics) and Harvey Schmidt (music). The colorfully kooky set design by Jeff G. Rack, lighting by Yancey Dunham, and onstage musical direction of Graham Jackson … nicely round out the technical efforts in this quirky fairy tale production. A much loved, long running musical journey, that draws audiences in, time and time again … I think it’s my third time seeing it. Cag, my friend and guest that night, having seen it in New York a dozen times … knew every single word in the script! I’m sure many of you do too! Running through Oct. 7 at Theatre West located at 3333 Cahuenga Blvd. West (near Universal Studios). For seats call (323) 851-7977. Online ticketing by visiting theatrewest.org.
Theatre West Celebrates 50 Years as a Theatrical Family
It was started up in 1962 by a group of New York actors, here in L.A. for TV and film ventures, who deeply missed the thrill of “live” stage work. They came together here to offer workshops for writers and actors, evolving through the decades into a highly respected theater group. With endless unforgettable productions to their credit, their roster of founding members is most impressive! To list all of them would take more space than I have … but just to mention an “eye popping” few: Beau and Jeff Bridges, Barbara Bain, Martin Landau, Robert Blake, Ray Bradbury, Jack Nicholson, Better Garrett, Richard Dreyfuss, Bridget Hanley, Sally Fields, Harry Dean Stanton, Lee Meriwether, Earl Holliman … and many more. Theatre West is a Los Angeles “cultural treasure” to be sure. Kudos to all involved!
The Bellflower Sessions – Opening Sept. 8 at The Whitefire.
I’ll be seeing this timely and scathing black comedy for “review” this weekend, at Sherman Oaks Whitefire Theatre. Directed by Bryan Rassmussen, it is said to be about a victim of the recession, and his mentally unstable psychiatrist. Starring a fine cast, I’m told that it is a very dark play with comedic moments. I’ll tell you all about it next week. For early booking call (818) 990-2324 or go to brownpapertickets.com.
The Paris Letter
The Group Rep at The Lonny Chapman Theatre in NoHo is proud to announce an extension of this controversially hard hitting adult drama. Written by Jon Robin Baitz, and directed by Jules Aaron, it is performed by an intense and powerful cast. Audiences have been riveted to their seats at every performance! I reviewed it in the July 25 issue, in case you’d like to go online at tolucantimes.com to read my original full review. Now extended through Sept. 16 (Be Aware: There is full male nudity). For seats call (818) 763-5990 or go to thegrouprep.com.
That’s my story for this week. I hope you all enjoyed a nice Labor Day with family and friends….