Only one highly commendable production to critique this week…

And one Hearty No Ho Welcome to a new creative mind in our midst…

The Apple Tree

(L to R) Josh Helmuth, Ben Rovner, Morgan Landers, Kit Paquin, Brian Maples, all intrigued by Stephanie Fredricks as “Passionella” in “The Apple Tree” at the Crown City Theatre Co.

(L to R) Josh Helmuth, Ben Rovner, Morgan Landers, Kit Paquin, Brian Maples, all intrigued by Stephanie Fredricks as “Passionella” in “The Apple Tree” at the Crown City Theatre Co.

NORTH HOLLYWOOD- A tantalizing trio of sassy one acts… threaded mainly by the theme of “temptation”… I loved every moment of this infectious production! A musical comedy triumph, poking fun at the issues of love, lust, ambitions, and the age old “dance” between men and women… This grouping is poignant, touching, and hilarious, in turns. Boasting a talented cast of nine attractive and high-energy actors/singers… the “fun meter” here is off the charts! (We even got to enjoy a zany bit of puppetry.) Cleverly written by Sheldon Harnick and Jerry Bock (“Fiddler on the Roof”), with additional material by Jerome Coppersmith, and based on stories by Mark Twain, Frank B. Stockton, and Jules Feiffer. “The Apple Tree” first ran on Broadway in 1966, starring Alan Alda. Collectively and creatively setting the gleeful mood, I’m giving kudos to Gary Lamb (lighting) and William A. Reilly (musical direction) for co-designing a playfully appealing set, Bradley Michael, for peppy choreography, and Caitlin Erin O’Hare for eye-popping costumes! Let me pique your interest with a little tid-bit on each mini play.

The Diary of Adam and Eve

Charmingly directed by Gary Lamb. We meet Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, as they meet, surrounded by God’s nameless creatures. Adam, a perfectly happy and simple man, (loveably played by Matthew J. Williamson) doesn’t know what “hit” him… with the unexpected appearance of the beautiful Eve. (An achingly sweet Morgan Landers). Her mystique, innocence, intuition, and love of life, confuses, and eventually intrigues him, into submission. (Sound familiar, guys? It all started here!) Jon Mullich as the evil snake, Stephanie Fredricks as God, and the animated ensemble of heaven’s furry creatures, add greatly to the fun. Gorgeous song performance by Landers as Eve, on the relatable and lovely “What Makes Me Love Him.”

The Lady or the Tiger?

Directed with sultry passion by William A. Reilly. Brian Maples (a “fab” singer) as a balladeer tells this odd story. The self-centered Princess Barbara, (a sizzlingly sexy Kit Paquin) is forbidden to mix with non-royals… yet her passion secretly smolders for Captain Sanjar (a dashing Josh Helmuth). When the King discovers her dalliance (Jon Mullich), he forces the captain to choose between two doors for his sin. One door hides a killer tiger, the other hides a woman he must marry. Will the vengeful Princess send her love to sure death, or into the arms of another woman? Amy Ball plays the “other” woman… Bradley Michael, a prisoner. Stand-out vocal number by Paquin on “I’ve Got What You Want.”

Passionella

Directed with Broadway musical flair by Matthew J. Williamson. This one is so much fun! An animated, high-spirited Amy Ball narrates this “rags to riches” story of Ella, a cinder chimney sweeper, who longs for fame and fortune. Passionately pining to be a movie star, she is granted her wish by a kooky fairy godmother (also Amy Ball), with certain limitations. Transformed from Ella to the famous and talented “Passionella,” Stephanie Fredricks gives a show-stopping performance! A noted musical theatre “phenom,” this gal has an incredible voice! Bradley Michael (stepping in as the understudy) is naughty, bawdy fun, as Flip, her “rock star” Prince Charming, and Jon Mullich is versatile in two roles. The closing scene here, featuring Flip and Passionella, offers a delicious ending to a “feel good” evening of theatre! Hope you catch this imaginative show… They say “An apple a day keeps the doctor away!” Running through June 28th (possible extension) at Crown City Theatre – 11031 Camarillo St. in NoHo. Call 818- 745-8527.

Lonny Chapman’s Group Rep Theatre Names Ernest A. Figueroa as Its New Artistic Director

Ernest A. Figueroa, new Artistic Director for Lonny Chapman’s Group Rep Theatre

Ernest A. Figueroa, new Artistic Director for Lonny Chapman’s Group Rep Theatre

This highly-regarded professional NoHo theatre troupe, under the loving Artistic Direction of Lonny Chapman for over three decades… basically “lost their way” after his death in 2007. Although the plays continued to open and close (I’ve reviewed most of them for 14 years) and many company members have come and gone… too many “chiefs” have tried to rule the tribe, with no solid leader. The once always exceptional production choices became hit and miss, and loyal audience members became undeniably fewer. A lovely theatre space with an impressive history, the remaining company members joined forces, hearts and minds, trying to find a solution. Committees have been formed, and innovative ideas have circulated, under the sparkling enthusiasm of the newly-elected “Board President,” Janet Wood (who has been a company member since the very start). After interviewing many potential theatrical “leaders,” they are now thrilled to have chosen Ernest A. Figueroa to head their ambitious journey back to excellence (there are many fine actors at G.R.T). A great guy with an extensive background as a producer, director, actor, and playwright (both artistically and administrative), the members are exuberantly overjoyed at the prospect of “big changes” to come! I was invited to the bustling reception, honoring and introducing him, and was swept-up in the renewed energy and excitement of all involved. He is a dedicated and artistic soul, with plenty of business savvy and fresh ideas… Welcome to our uniquely personal and thriving NoHo Arts District, Ernest… You’re gonna love us!
 
Back next week with two new reviews… Opening at two of my favorite theatres… I’ll be seeing “The UNSeen” at The Road Theatre and “Ten Cent Night” at The Victory Theatre.


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