I caught two productions on the week-end…as different in style and content as they could possibly be. Both are based on true events in history and both are worthy of your time and money! “BABY IT’S YOU”, is a nostalgic, historical and ENTERTAININGLY ELECTRIC musical “blast to the past”, for Baby Boomers of all types…! I LOVED every rockin’ moment!
Actually, a winner for younger audiences, too, as many of the 38 mega hit songs covered, will be recognized by music lovers of all ages. After a SOLD OUT run last summer at West Hollywood’s smaller “Coast Playhouse”, this larger and highly respected Equity venue was chosen, and a New York run is soon to follow.
Unlike many staged musicals starring a few gifted vocalists and a handful of average singers… EVERY member of this troupe sings their butts off! ALL with notable credits from past work, they were handpicked by L.A.’s savvy “King of Casting” Michael Donovan.
Told through dialogue based on facts and SIZZLING song performances of 60’s hit songs, this is the inspiring story of a New Jersey housewife, with a yearning for a life and legacy outside of her own kitchen. When she heard four young black girls singing at her daughter’s high school, she felt strongly compelled to expose their talent to the world. The woman was Florence Greenberg…and the group was “The Shirelles”, soon to become the best known “girl band” in the world, in the early 60’s. With no business or musical experience, and totally against her husband’s wishes, she headed for New York “to learn the ropes”. Battling with greedy record company’s, “PAYOLA” DJ’s, and family separation, she eventually formed her own record label, and catapulted “The Shirelles” (…and other major acts) to stardom. Teaming up with African-American songwriter Luther Dixon, in a male dominated industry, the little lady from Jersey made “pop” history!
Written with PULSATING PASSION by Colin Escott & Floyd Mutrux, who also directed this high energy and heartfelt show, this one is a non-stop “party” of a production! The audience claps, cheers, and sings along, as they “flashback” to their own personal memories of the 1960’s. We “groove” to many of the hits of the major artists of the day…each one creating a memory. So much fun! Meeghan Holaway as Florence gives a BRILLIANTLY multi-dimensional performance, and Allan Louis as her partner Luther, is DREAMILY DYNAMIC! (with a magnificent voice…we wished he’d had more featured songs).
Geno Henderson is a BUNDLE OF DYNAMITE as Jocko, the slick DJ and a “fab” vocalist in “multi-other” roles. As The Shirelles, a quartet of spirited “beauties” LOADED WITH TALENT”, includes: Erica Ash, Berlando Drake, Paulette Ivory, and Crystal Starr Knighton! Barry Pearl plays Florence’s disgruntled hubby, Adam Irizarry, her son, Suzanne Petrela her daughter, and Matt McKenzie plays Marvin a Record Promoter. A great cast all around!
Lizz Wolf’s flashy period costuming, Anna Louizo’s ever-changing set design, Jason H. Thompson’s projection design (depicting world events of the era) and Birgette Mutrux’s choreography, all hit their mark perfectly, as did all of the technical wizards behind the scenes.
Super hot band, too! A big project like this is a team effort and all involved must be applauded! Do catch this one! The “celebrity studded” after party opening night, hosted by “Venice Magazine” under the meticulous vision of Paige Patrone, offered the final melodic chord to a FAB night out on the town!
Running through December 13th at the Pasadena Playhouse, 39 South El Molino in Pasadena. Call for seats at the box office between noon and six daily. For reservations, call 626-357-7529.
In this “oh so British” murder mystery, a superb cast plays out the characters and events of a “true” and sensational 1930’s murder. It was cleverly written by Simon Gray, after reading an English paperback on a train, called “Ten Famous Trials”, and following his BBC TV play on the same subject.
Set in London in the 30’s, “Molly” chronicles the Alma Rattenbury story, and the oddly titillating relationships of four people, leading up to a violently spontaneous murder. A darkly offbeat tale of a quartet of lonely souls whose lives are intertwined…laced with sharp wit and quirky “naughty moments”, the IMPECCABLE performances were the main attraction, for me.
Gray’s script suggest certain vague insinuations that never surface, and unfolds slowly, making it feel too long at times, under the capable direction of Jeffery Passero. Taking place in England in the home of Molly and Teddy, (…He, an American, She a “Brit”) whose housekeeper/companion Eve, seems to be their only friend. Early on, they hire Oliver, a young “Cockney” teen, as a handyman and gardener. As inner emotions surface, and each of their passions, oddities, feelings and relationships are revealed, a DELICIOUSLY DIABOLICAL chain of events play out.
Giselle Wolf is CAPTIVATING as Molly! (in a Bette Davis caliber role). An animated, manipulative, self-involved, yet dutiful wife, who smokes and drinks non-stop…She looks like the cover of a fashion magazine, and chatters on like an exuberant child. Don Moss is also IMPRESSIVE as her dependent nearly deaf husband with sexual “issues”. Anne Gee Byrd, a fine actress is FLAWLESSLY FOCUSED as the lonely housekeeper who knows “all” but tells nothing. Max Roeg SIMMERS with raw emotion, as the gorgeous young boy, hired to take on the chores (which he does, and then some!). Rounding out the solid cast in smaller roles are Bryant Weber as the Police Constable, and Geoffrey Wade as his partner, Greaves. FABULOUS 1930’s costuming by Carol H. Beule and an APPEALING set design by Elizabeth Hayden Passero. EFFECTIVE lighting by Tom Ormeny and sound by Rob Corn. An involving production, based on an actual case…you’ll just have to catch this “whodunit” to find out who did it!
Running through December 20th at the Victory Theater Center, 3326 W. Victory Blvd. in Burbank. Call 818-841-5421.
See you next week with backstage banter…