Both of my reviews this time are on musical-themed performances. One Bluegrass, the other a world famous rock opera…. OK, very different styles, but as they say … “Music makes the world go round!” That means all music!
The Who’s Tommy
A nostalgic blast from the past! Where were you in 1969? Whether you were on the planet yet, or still a figment of your parent’s imagination … everyone knows the multi-award winning musical rock opera, Tommy! Pete Townshend and Des Mcanuff’s powerful story about a deaf, dumb, and blind British boy … (“The Pinball Wizard”) rocked the nation and still resonates today. The classic history-making double album released in 1969, by Roger Daltry and The Who, is timeless! It then became a film in 1975 and a Broadway stage musical in the early ‘80s. The first mega-musical production in Doma Theatre’s innovative 2012 season, I look forward to seeing/reviewing all six shows. The result of the passion and dedication of Doma co-founders, Marco Gomez and Dolf Ramos, their intuition, love, and generous natures have no boundaries. Making The MET Theatre their “home” for the series of plays, there are so many artists, actors, singers, musicians, tech folks, etc., involved in Tommy, it’s impossible to credit every person in the space I have … but all spill their hearts and talents into this gigantic co-effort! Directed with skillful passion by Hallie Baran, this was a monumentally challenging undertaking. Well done…. The well-known story of Tommy, a young deaf, dumb, and blind kid who lives in his own world of “pinball wizardry” after witnessing a murder … nine year old Donovan Baise gives a precious and heartwarming performance. The multi-talented Jess Ford is electrifying as the adult Tommy, and Anna Ty Bergman and Geoffrey Going are spellbinding as his parents. Karl Maschek is creepy fun as the leering Uncle Ernie, and Stephanie Hayslip rocks as Gypsy, the Acid Queen! As the precocious young cousin Kevin (Adam Simon Krist) and the older cousin Kevin (Matt O’Neill), both were inspiring. The rest of the large cast, in multiple roles, played their parts with high energy gusto! Kudos to the “tasty” and hard driving musical direction of Chris Raymond and his hot onstage band. Wee criticism: On opening night, there were times when the band overpowered the phenomenal vocalists … but by now I’m confident that a balance has been found. Creative and mood setting efforts too by the technical team, who must be mentioned: Choreographer (Angela Todaro), Scenery and Costumes (Brandy Jacobs), Lighting (Cullen Pinney), and Sound (Joseph Montiel). This is an exhilarating and highly entertaining production! A timeless journey with an English flavor … Family dysfunction and unexpected circumstances have, and always will challenge us, as we each find our own ways to survive life’s madness. This production will have you enthusiastically rockin’ in your seats, while tugging at your heartstrings, and tickling your funny bones at the same time! A big production with a lot of heart … Whether Tommy is your nostalgic ticket back to your younger, wilder years, or for younger audiences a play and era you missed … Either way, you should catch it now! It’s a pretty meaningful and thought provoking trip … loaded with emotion-packed songs and performances! I hope to go back and catch it again! Running through April 15 at The MET Theatre located at 1089 N. Oxford in LA. For seats, call (323) 465-0693 or go to www.domatheatre.com.
James Reams & The Barnstormers
A friend and I recently headed up to Altadena’s “Coffee Gallery Backstage.” This is a comfy, cozy “showcase venue” that’s been open for years, selling coffees and snacks, and offering eclectic live entertainment. For their upcoming musical events list, dial in firstname.lastname@example.org. We were there to catch the “one night only,” original bluegrass musical stylings and “down home” humor of Arizona-based, solid front man (vocalist/guitarist) James Reams & The Barnstormers. The popular band has been performing for nearly 20 years, and this is the current reincarnation of players backing James. Tyler Wells – a highly revered and awarded young banjo player — won the Huck Finn banjo competition in 2010. Mark Miracle has been playing mandolin all of his life, and has toured throughout the US, Canada, Australia, and Europe. Dennis Howe on standup bass has been honing his craft for 30 years, and is now groovin’ with The Barnstormers. As a bonus treat, Grand Ole Opry musician and legendary bluegrass fiddler, Blaine Sprouse, was featured the night we went. James and the guys mostly play early country material, as well as James original tunes written in authentic style, honoring bluegrass and its roots. He is widely known as “Ambassador of Bluegrass” for his dedication. Doug Tuchman, a bluegrass promoter for decades, stated, “This is the best traditionally oriented bluegrass band in the area … bar none.” This accomplished band’s music and collective onstage effort is easy, breezy, and fun lovin’. Great “pickin’,” meaningful songs, and plenty of spontaneous chatter … color their set with country style. They combined tasty vocal harmonies, “good clean fun,” and instrumental skill, throughout their infectiously likeable set. James jokingly said at one point, “We’re workin’ too hard at not being slick!” To date he has released eight CDs of his original tunes … some written with Tina Aridas. To order them, or get more band info (including music clips), go to www.jamesreams.com. Now checking out LA’s “bluegrass friendly” venues for booking … I’m sure he will be back on our local LA club stages in the near future. Watch for their name … and I’ll let you know when they are in town again! They’re a lot of fun!
Back next week with more “Entertainment Chat from Pat”!