I was a very busy bee on the weekend! I held a lucrative Saturday garage sale (…exhausting) and saw two productions for “review,” as different in style and content as could possibly be.

The House of Finnegan

From l, John McCool Bowers, Rachel Albrecht, and Laura Wolfe in “The House of Finnegan.”

A world premiere musical comedy/drama, written as a life long dream by Bill Rich, with music/lyrics by Steve Kopandy. Although the production had some charming moments, and a handful of standout performances, I do feel that it was “below par” by L.A. standards, in overall casting, direction, costuming, and performances. With an obvious sense of “heart” and self-accomplishment by Bill Rich, whose life has been unthinkably challenging physically, the play lumbered along with one theatrical problem after another. A big production, with a huge cast and 26 song performances … (too many) the storyline combines recollections from the early days of musical theatre, the Golden Age of TV and films, and the reality of the present era. The production was brought to life by a sparkly “rising star” child actor, Rachel Albrecht … who “lit up the stage” as Finnegan’s granddaughter, Carolyn. John McCool Bowers as Granddad in a wheelchair was loveably strong, and Shamika Franklin as his long ago “love” was commendably feisty! Otherwise, the oddly cast troupe’s performances ranged from passable to puzzling, as the story rambled on. The onstage orchestra, under the ambitious musical direction of Bonnie Janofsky (although all were a bit robotic) capably accompanied the vocalists on the storytelling song performances. A worthy concept, written by a first time “virgin playwright” … but the lengthy story lacked the necessary spark to hold an audiences interest. This was an overly long one to sit through! Though the concept was heartfelt, there were too many weak points and “amateur-isms” to allow the story to affect us as intended. Trimming the length would help! Running through Oct. 28 at The Monroe Forum Theatre at The El Portal Theatre located at 5269 Lankershim Blvd. in NoHo. For seats call (818) 508-4200 or (866) 811-4111.

Kong: A Goddamn Thirty-Foot Gorilla

From l, Sara Kubida, Eric Curtis Johnson, Nathan Wellman, David Caprita, and J.R. Esposito in “Kong: A Goddamn Thirty-Foot Gorilla.”

Written with hilarious imagination by Adam Hahn (from some warped corner of his mind) and directed with magically maniacal mayhem by Jaime Robledo, this is one whacky “laugh-a-minute” production! With riotous visuals, an insane plot line, and zany reoccurring audience participation weaved in … there is much fun and endless belly laughs to be had! Leave it to the highly inventive, certifiably nutsy “Sky Pilot Theatre” troupe to come up with an original offering like this. Unable to aptly summarize the plot line, I defer to their own press sheet description: “In 1933, an expedition sets out for the Indian Ocean in hopes of creating the greatest film ever made. Instead they brought back a giant captive thirty-foot gorilla. This was a terrible idea.” A side-splitting parody on the classic King Kong story … (with many detours) and a sympathetic view of the infamous ape … it is a challenge to keep up with the craziness. So don’t even try … just go along for the zany ride. Set on Skull Island, and in New York City … an excellent and quirky cast takes us on a cerebrally silly, eye-popping journey! Sara Kubida is a stand out as the object of Kong’s affection, and Germaine De Leon is good fun as Kong. All perfectly cast, and each one nuttier than the last … Kudos also too: JR Esposito, Arden Haywood, Eric Curtis Johnson, David Caprita, and Morry Schorr, as well as to the ensemble cast: Samantha Macher, Kareem Cervantes, Nathan Wellman, and Zelika Chante. Tifanie McQueen (scenic design and props) and Kareem Cervantes creative costumes … added greatly to the overall fun! A fast paced, 70 minute, one act interactive “party” … If you are in the mood for a good laugh … do catch this one! Running through Nov. 25 at T.U. Studios located at 10943 Camarillo in North Hollywood. For seats call (800) 838-3006 or go to SkyPilotTheatre.com.

That concludes my rambling opinions for this time. Back next week … Happy Halloween to all!


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