Category: Ahmanson Theatre

Theater review: 'American Idiot' at the Ahmanson Theatre

March 15, 2012 |  3:39 pm

(l to r) Scott J. Campbell, Van Hughes, and Jake Epstein. Lower: A woman in a Burka (Nicci Claspell) descends on a group of wounded soldiers during
Whether “American Idiot” represents a new wave of musical theater or a surprising development in music video, there’s no denying the moody kinetic thrills of this rabble-rousing pop-punk show, which opened Wednesday at the Ahmanson Theatre.

Based on Green Day's multi-platinum 2004 concept album of the same title and incorporating tracks from the group’s “21st Century Breakdown,” “American Idiot” alchemizes these recordings into a fluidly choreographed spectacle that is often mesmerizing. And while this touring version of the hit Broadway musical may not possess the same eccentric star power, the show is just as visually enthralling as when I first encountered it at Berkeley Rep, where it had its 2009 world premiere in Green Day’s Bay Area backyard. 

Director Michael Mayer (a Tony winner for “Spring Awakening”) deserves much of the credit for the show’s electric staging. This surreal multimedia kaleidoscope is set in the tumultuous George W. Bush era, after the shock of 9-11 had transformed into an Iraq War battle cry. And the production's loudly propulsive presentation recreates the feeling of an era that moved too spasmodically for anyone to keep up.

 PHOTOS: "American Idiot" on stage

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Dance review: Ronald K. Brown's Evidence at the Ahmanson Theatre

March 11, 2012 |  1:48 pm

Choreographer Ronald K. Brown flashed a startling, broad smile while performing Friday night with  Evidence, a Dance Company. His Brooklyn-based contemporary dance troupe enjoyed its second-only Music Center appearance this weekend, courtesy of Glorya Kaufman Presents Dance at the Music Center.

Pacing through his latest work, “On Earth Together,” to the music of Stevie Wonder, Brown's glowing expression caused us to consider what a grim business most contemporary dance has become. Beauty radiated from the Ahmanson stage, as Evidence, a wonderful troupe of 10, boogied through three of Brown’s sensual, sweet-natured works.

Born in the fabled Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood 46 years ago, Brown belongs to a generation of black choreographers who toggle easily between the contemporary urban vernacular, its African roots and dance post-modernism. He’s got Alvin Ailey’s distinct sense of place and Katherine Dunham’s Afro-Cuban earthiness; in his zeal for steady-state locomotion, he evokes the minimalist Laura Dean.  Most recently,  he choreographed the new Broadway revival of "Porgy and Bess."

In the first piece, “Ebony Magazine: To a Village” (1996), company members -- mostly African American, one West African, and the superb Arcell Cabuag, born in the Bay Area of Filipino descent -- gave the simple dance walk luxuriant reading. They sank into their hips and chugged their arms alongside, sometimes tossing a hand in the air. Dressed by costumer Omotayo Wunmi Olaiya (a great look, the men’s flowing white pajamas neatly clamped by dark vests), they primped and vogued.

Their soft parade, padded and lush, led them to the stage apron for some top-notch action. Up and down, then in and out, they undulated their spines, in waves, frissons, sometimes a body hiccup. To rap music, the dance enacted a village’s communal rites (Brown has spent considerable time in Africa). Hands clasped in prayer position, church bells chimed, the ocean and its seagulls sounded. Three women, heads bent solemnly, circled a white-frocked dead body.

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'American Idiot' at Ahmanson Theatre to hold daily ticket lottery

March 6, 2012 |  3:20 pm

American Idiot

If ticket prices for the Green Day musical "American Idiot" seem out of reach financially, there's a chance to buy $30 tickets at the Ahmanson Theatre -- but earplugs may be advised.

Center Theatre Group said Tuesday that it will hold a daily lottery for $30 seats to the show in the first two rows of the orchestra section. While sitting close to the stage may be ideal for an intimate play,  for "American Idiot" -- with its throbbing rock score -- the seats could resemble a mosh pit.

The company said it will begin drawing the winners 90 minutes before curtain. Approximately 30 lottery tickets will be available per performance.

Registration begins when the box office opens at noon Tuesday-Saturday and 11 a.m. on Sunday. Anyone signing up must be present at the box office when names are drawn and show identification and proof of registration.

Those who don't win the daily lottery will be automatically included in the lottery for the final Saturday performance at the Ahmanson on April 21, the company said.

"American Idiot" features music by the band Green Day. The touring Broadway production begins performances at the Ahmanson on March 13.


'American Idiot' to make L.A. debut at Ahmanson

Theater review: 'American Idiot' at Berkeley Rep

Before closing on Broadway, 'American Idiot' brings back Billie Joe Armstrong

-- David Ng

Photo: A scene from the Berkeley production of "American Idiot." Credit: Lawrence K. Ho / Los Angeles Times

'Mary Poppins' to return to Ahmanson Theatre in August

January 19, 2012 |  2:14 pm


Mary Poppins and her magic carpetbag will return to the Ahmanson Theatre this summer for a limited four-week engagement, Center Theatre Group announced Thursday. The family-friendly musical is scheduled to run Aug. 9 through Sept. 2, and will be the last production in the Ahmanson's current season.

"Mary Poppins" previously ran at the Ahmanson from November 2009 to February 2010. The musical, a co-production between Disney and Cameron Mackintosh, is based on the books by P.L. Travers, with songs from the 1964 movie, along with some new numbers. The book is by Julian Fellowes, the writer and creator of TV's "Downton Abbey."

During its initial L.A. run, Times theater critic Charles McNulty wrote in his review that "live-in nannies may be a thing of the past, but the story of a cold, uptight banker who discovers his humanity at home after his career falls off the hinges is like some kind of post-Lehman Brothers-WaMu fairy tale."

The musical opened on Broadway at the New Amsterdam Theatre in 2006 and is still running. The L.A. engagements are part of the musical's North American tour.


Theater review: 'Mary Poppins' at the Ahmanson Theatre

A very familiar face returns to 'Mary Poppins'

Theater review: 'Fela!' at the Ahmanson Theatre

-- David Ng

Photo: A scene from the musical "Mary Poppins." Credit: Joan Marcus

'Leap of Faith' sets April debut on Broadway

January 12, 2012 |  5:15 pm

  "Leap of Faith"
"Leap of Faith," the new musical that debuted in 2010 at the Ahmanson Theatre, will begin performances on Broadway on April 3, with an official opening set for an unspecified date later that month, organizers announced Thursday. The show, featuring songs co-written by multiple Oscar-winner Alan Menken, will play at the St. James Theatre.

Raul Esparza will return to the role that he originated in L.A. -- Jonas Nightingale, a fraudulent preacher and faith healer who is waylaid in a small Kansas town. Taking over the part originated by Brooke Shields will be Jessica Phillips, who will play Marla, the local sheriff and love interest for Jonas. Kendra Kassebaum will also return to the show as Jonas' sister.

As previously reported, Christopher Ashley will direct the Broadway production of "Leap of Faith," taking over from Rob Ashford, who staged the musical in L.A.

The musical has been revised since its debut, having received tepid reviews in L.A. Menken has tweeted about revisions to the show. In one tweet dated Nov. 11, the composer wrote: "LEAP OF FAITH readings went so well! Hard to believe, but I think we've fixed this musical, after all these many years of work. Happiness!!"

Organizers also said in the past that they have revised the book for "Leap of Faith." The book was written by Janus Cercone and Glenn Slater. Revisions have been carried out by Cercone and Warren Leight.

Cercone wrote the screenplay for the 1992 Steve Martin movie on which the musical is based.


'Leap of Faith' adds Christopher Ashley as director for Broadway

'Leap of Faith' sets out on the road to Broadway

Theater review: 'Leap of Faith' at the Ahmanson Theatre

-- David Ng

Photo: Raul Esparza, holding Nicholas Barasch, in a scene from the L.A. production of "Leap of Faith" in 2010. Credit: Bob Chamberlin / Los Angeles Times.

Jan Maxwell, Elaine Page set for 'Follies' at Ahmanson Theatre

January 11, 2012 |  9:00 am

MaxwellThe Broadway revival of "Follies" will retain much of its principal cast when it moves to Los Angeles this season. Actors Jan Maxwell, Danny Burstein, Ron Raines and Elaine Paige will appear in the musical when it opens at the Ahmanson Theatre on May 9.

Victoria Clark will take over the role currently played on Broadway by Bernadette Peters. Clark, whose Broadway credits include the current "Sister Act" and 2005's "The Light in the Piazza," will play the role of Sally Durant Plummer.

A spokeswoman for Center Theatre Group said the five actors were the only ones the company could announce at this time.

"Follies" is set to begin previews at the Ahmanson May 3 and will run for six weeks through June 9. The revival production, directed by Eric Schaeffer and choreographed by Warren Carlyle, debuted last year at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington. The Los Angeles run is the only one planned after the show's engagement at the Marquis Theatre on Brodway ends Jan. 22.

"Follies" is a last minute addition to the Ahmanson's season following the abrupt cancellation in November of the "Funny Girl" revival. Center Theatre Group moved up its presentation of "Fela!" to fill the dates vacated by "Funny Girl."

"Follies," featuring songs by Stephen Sondheim and a book by James Goldman, was first performed on Broadway in 1971.


'Follies' in Los Angeles will be without Bernadette Peters

Ahmanson lands Broadway's 'Follies' to fill gap in its season

'Funny Girl' revival postponed indefinitely for L.A. and Broadway

-- David Ng

Photo: Jan Maxwell in a scene from "Follies." Credit: Joan Marcus

'Follies' in Los Angeles will be without Bernadette Peters

December 22, 2011 | 11:52 am

Bernadette Peters
When the revival of Stephen Sondheim's "Follies" comes to the Ahamanson Theatre in the spring it reportedly will be without one of its leading ladies, Bernadette Peters. is reporting that Peters wishes to honor her obligations for concert performances that conflict with the Ahmanson dates.

Peters had postponed some concerts when "Follies" moved to Broadway after a run at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C. The actress will finish with "Follies" on Broadway when it closes on Jan. 22.

One of her upcoming concerts will be at the Valley Performing Arts Center in Northridge on March 3.

It's not yet known if the rest of the Broadway cast -- including Elaine Page, Jan Maxwell, Jayne Houdyshell and Danny Burstein -- will come to Los Angeles.

“Follies,” the 1971 musical by Sondheim and James Goldman, will play at the Ahmanson May 9-June 9 (with previews starting May 3), filling a gap in the season created when a planned revival of “Funny Girl” fell through.

According to Peters' website, she has performances that would conflict with the Ahmanson run in Indiana, Pa.; Boston; Burlington, Vt.; and Newark, N.J.


Ahmanson lands Broadway's 'Follies' to fill gap in its season

Whistle while you direct

'Follies' on Broadway: What did the critics think?

-- Sherry Stern

Photo: Bernadette Peters performs in "Follies." Credit: Joan Marcus

Theater review: 'Fela!' at the Ahmanson Theatre

December 15, 2011 |  5:36 pm

Fela 1

“Everybody say yeah yeah!” shouted a sweat-drenched, utterly mesmerizing Sahr Ngaujah, decked in the sexy peacock attire of Fela Anikulapo-Kuti, the Nigerian activist-musician he portrays in the exuberant musical “Fela!”

“Yeah yeah!” replied Wednesday’s opening-night audience at the Ahmanson Theatre at a volume that suggested no one was holding back.

The politically charged tale of the man who pioneered the Afrobeat movement, “Fela!” is a rare phenomenon — an American musical that tells its story through the music and the liberated, full-body dancing that is an extension of its percussive groove. Bill T. Jones directed and choreographed the show, so it’s no surprise that it moves as hypnotically as it sounds.

PHOTOS: "Fela!" live on stage.

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'Leap of Faith' adds Christopher Ashley as director for Broadway

December 13, 2011 | 12:56 pm


The road to Broadway is long and arduous for most new musicals. But for "Leap of Faith," the screen-to-stage adaptation that debuted in Los Angeles last year, the road to New York seems to be especially challenging and bumpy.

Organizers announced Tuesday that Christopher Ashley had been hired to direct "Leap of Faith" when it arrives on Broadway some time in the fall of 2012. The musical will be choreographed by Sergio Trujillo. The pair replaces Rob Ashford, who directed and choreographed the musical at the Ahmanson Theatre in 2010.

Ashley currently serves as artistic director of the La Jolla Playhouse. He has a number of Broadway credits to his name, including the musicals "Memphis" and "Xanadu."

Organizers also said they are revising the book for "Leap of Faith." The book was written by Janus Cercone and Glenn Slater. Revisions will be carried out by Cercone and Warren Leight. (Cercone wrote the screenplay for the 1992 Steve Martin movie on which the musical is based.)

The score is by multiple Oscar-winning composer Alan Menken. Recent reports of readings in New York stated that the re-tooled show features some new music and has been condensed, with certain characters eliminated or combined.

Menken has tweeted recently about revisions to the musical. In one tweet dated Nov. 11, the composer wrote: "LEAP OF FAITH readings went so well! Hard to believe, but I think we've fixed this musical, after all these many years of work. Happiness!!"

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'Anything Goes' revival coming to L.A. in late 2012

December 12, 2011 |  9:00 am


The Tony-winning Broadway revival of "Anything Goes" will make its way to L.A. in late 2012 as part of a national tour, organizers have announced. The Cole Porter musical is scheduled to run at the Ahmanson Theatre in November and December 2012, although exact dates haven't been announced.

"Anything Goes" opened in April at the Stephen Sondheim Theatre in New York with a cast including Sutton Foster and Joel Grey. The revival is directed and choreographed by Kathleen Marshall. No casting has been announced for the tour.

The production, by the Roundabout Theatre Company, won Tony Awards for best revival, actress (Foster) and choreography. The Broadway cast album was recently nominated for a Grammy Award.

Organizers said that the national tour will begin in October in Cleveland.

"Anything Goes" will be part of the Ahmanson's 2012-13 season.


Grammys: 'Book of Mormon,' 'Anything Goes' albums are nominees

Tony Awards: 'Anything Goes,' Sutton Foster win awards

TV version of 'Anything Goes,' with Frank Sinatra and Ethel Merman, makes DVD debut

-- David Ng

Photo: Joel Grey and Sutton Foster in "Anything Goes." Credit: Joan Marcus / Associated Press


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