It was an interesting weekend, theatrically speaking…
One comedy, one drama, one hit, one miss!
“Broads! The Musical”
A high-energy, fun lovin’ musical with plenty of laughs, a lot of heart, and soul searching insight. This is an e-ticket ride to “senior shenanigans!” Starring an infectiously loveable quartet of women playing “sassy seniors” with spunk, each of them boasts impressive and lengthy theatrical credits. All gorgeous gals, “sans wigs and whacky costumes,” designed by the incomparable Shon LeBlanc, there’s no way their true ages are as advanced as the characters they play. Guess that’s why they call it “acting,” huh? Written by Joe Symon (also music and lyrics) and Jennie Fahn (book) with hilariously poignant panache, you will fall in love with these looney ladies! Delightfully directed by the flamboyantly fabulous Jules Aaron, who has helmed over 250 productions, and choreographed with pizzazz by “master of movement” Kay Cole… what’s not to love? “Bringing these funny and touching women to life has been a labor of love,” says Aaron, who collaborated with their writers for two years on this project (cute and colorful set by Stephen Gifford, lighting by J. Kent Inasy, and sound by Robert Arturo Ramirez). We are the captivated audience here at a yearly variety show at Millennium Manor Retirement Village in south Florida. Elaine and Myra, two quirky Jewish sisters from New York, mid-American bombshell Louise, and hot blooded Puerto Rican Nilda have been putting on this annual show for their peers for many years. When Louise makes an unexpected announcement to the others mid-show, panic sets in as the girls reminisce in dialogue and songs. Leslie Easterbrook is saucily sexy as Louise, held together by Botox and assorted “enhancements,” and Ivonne Coll sizzles as Nilda, the passionate Latina (FYI, she is a former Miss Puerto Rico in real life!). Barbara Niles is a riot as Myra, and June Gable is feisty as the diminutive Elaine. A wonderful cast of seasoned actresses! The storytelling songs, spanning heart touching to hilarious, are great fun! Favorites for me were: “Just Yesterday We Were Girls” sung by Elaine and Myra, “Lift It Up” sung by Louise, and “Without You, Ladies” sung by all of the bawdy broads. A lively and meaningful departure from the woes of the world, cute for all ages to be sure, but goldmine of riotous and relatable entertainment for “seniors!” Invite your grandma today… or, what the heck! Book seats for your entire senior group! They’ll love you for it! Running through April 4th at The El Portal Forum Theatre (5269 Lankershim Blvd. in NoHo). Call (818) 508-4200.
“An Act of Reparation”
Presented by the fledging G.K. Chesterton Theatre Company, this is only their second production. A promising and dedicated group with a wide variety of thespian types and ages in their troupe, their mission and intent is commendable. Vowing to present plays that explore issues of conscience, faith, and heroism, based on true stories throughout history, their goals are worthy. Producer Peter Gallagher states in part: “Where have all the heroes gone? Our mission is to produce great literary and historical works with emphasis on the struggle between faith and culture.” This weighty play (a true story), written by Peter’s father, Cathal Gallagher, and directed by Maria Vargo, looks at the horrendous German Reich during World War II. Austrian Franz Jagerstatter (played with gut wrenching emotion by Jade Carter) is a peasant farmer and a devout Catholic family man. Deeply religious, he is passionately unwilling to serve in the German army… choosing to abide by his principals and religion. His undying refusal to join the party alters his life and the lives of those he loves forever. Heavy stuff! Here are the main problems for me with this offering. For the sake of authenticity, impact, and audience involvement, a play taking place in a foreign country should use the “accents” spoken in that part of the world. With the commendable exception of three actors speaking with Austrian accents, this entire cast of 14 actors performed this horrific Nazi saga with “full on” American accents! This was a puzzling distraction which greatly diminished the power of the valid and intended message. Also, constantly interrupting the flow of the story… I have never seen a play with so many blackouts between scenes (I’m guessing 20 or more)! Three of the most authentic performances, all using the aforementioned Austrian accents, were given by Bette Smith as Franz’s devoted mother, Rosalia, William Knight as a policeman, Klaus Wilhelm, and a mesmerizing Catalina Tautu-Grode as Franz’s grandmother, Elizabeth Huber. Believable work also by Amber Bonasso as Franz’s supportive and long-suffering wife, Franziska. Though the ambition and importance of this tale is heartfelt, this often laborious production, overall, has problems on many levels. Sorry… I just can’t recommend this one. Better luck next time to this new, socially, and politically conscious theatre troupe. Running through March 7th (Thursday through Sunday) at The Odyssey Theatre (2055 S. Sepulveda Blvd. in W. Los Angeles). For seats, call (310) 477-2055.
See you next week, folks…