Category: Jukebox musical

Theater review: Twyla Tharp's 'Come Fly Away' at the Pantages

October 26, 2011 |  1:25 pm

Mallauri Esquibel and Ron Todorowski
If Beyoncé isn't already at the Pantages taking notes, she should be. No choreographer alive knows more about getting pop songs on their feet than Twyla Tharp -- and just about everything she knows is on view in “Come Fly Away,” the full-evening salute to the vocals of Frank Sinatra that opened Tuesday for a two-week run.

In various forms, under various titles, this show has been around since 2009. The Pantages version is a half-hour shorter than the 2010 Broadway edition, with seven songs, a dancer, an onstage vocalist and an intermission jettisoned for the tour. At a lean 80 minutes, it charts the formation and rivalries of four couples in a nightclub that sports a sensational live band upstage.

PHOTOS: 'Come Fly Away' at the Pantages

Under the supervision of Dave Pierce, that band artfully supplements and often dominates the classic arrangements and orchestrations of Sinatra's recordings. What's more, Peter McBoyle's sound design makes Sinatra's voice seem a living entity -- as if he's offstage, mike in hand. 

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Theater review: 'Summer of Love' by Musical Theatre West

April 8, 2011 |  7:08 am

Summer A psychedelically painted van rolls to a stop, its doors fly open and out pour flower children with long hair. Er, long, really fake wigs.

The young people -- clean-scrubbed despite faux soil marks on their bell bottoms and peasant dresses -- spill into an urban cavern illuminated by glowing, neon-like tubes. Rock-concert-style lighting turns the air liquid and acid-trippy.

This is the "Summer of Love," the title announces, but something feels wrong. The newest show from jukebox-musical-maker Roger Bean wants to run barefoot back to the youth revolution of 1967. But what's onstage in this Musical Theatre West world premiere is slickly packaged and fake as can be -- qualities entirely at odds with that movement.

As characters and plot points are introduced, further realizations set in: "Hey, I've seen this before -- in 'Hair'!" Except for the runaway bride. "What, now it's 'The Graduate'?"

Associated topics appear to have made creator-director Bean, known for "The Marvelous Wonderettes," nervous. A multi-song drug sequence is prefaced by what feels like a tacked-on anti-drug aphorism from the group's earth mother.

Among the nearly two dozen songs are "Grazing in the Grass," "White Rabbit," "Spinning Wheel," "Crystal Blue Persuasion" and "War." The selections are evocative, although sticklers will note that few of the tunes existed yet in 1967.

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Exit Wagner's `Ring,' enter Johnny Cash's

June 22, 2010 |  5:30 pm

RingOfFire After 16 months of Wotan, Alberich, Siegfried, Brunnhilde and the gang --who will wrap things up the Los Angeles Opera's "Ring" cycle Wednesday and Saturday with "Siegfried" and "Gotterdammerung"  -- FCLO Music Theatre will open "Ring of Fire" on July 16, and it has nothing to do with Richard Wagner.

The subtitle in Fullerton is "The Johnny Cash Musical Show." While Achim Freyer's staging of "Der Ring Des Nibelungen" has featured a Man in Black -- chief god Wotan in his earthly guise as The Wanderer -- the Fullerton "Ring" is strictly about the country music great.

The jukebox musical, featuring songs from the Cash catalog, was created by musical theater veteran Richard Maltby Jr. and died a quick death on Broadway in 2006. But it has enjoyed an afterlife with Jason Edwards, who starred in the Broadway production and will be on stage in Fullerton. Edwards headlined the first area production last year at the La Mirada Theatre for the Performing Arts.

There is undeniable common ground between Wagner's "Ring" and the Cash tribute's title song: love is a burning thing in both.

-- Mike Boehm

Recent and related:

Ring Festival L.A.

Review: `Ring of Fire' at La Mirada Theatre

The voice of Everyman in Black (obituary)

Photo: Jason Edwards (foreground) in a scene from "Ring of Fire" production in La Mirada. Credit: Michael Lamont

New Ray Charles musical to play the Ethel Barrymore Theatre on Broadway

May 11, 2010 |  2:25 pm

RAYCHARLES"Unchain My Heart, the Ray Charles Musical" has found a home for its Broadway run. Producer Stuart Benjamin said the show will open Nov. 7 at the Ethel Barrymore Theatre.

The production, which began life in 2007 as "Ray Charles Live! A New Musical" at the now-shuttered Pasadena Playhouse, will be directed by Playhouse artistic director Sheldon Epps. It features a book by Pulitzer Prize winner Suzan-Lori Parks and a score that includes many of Charles' hits.

Tony nominee Brandon Victor Dixon, who starred in the Pasadena production and recently gained acclaim  in off-Broadway's "The Scottsboro Boys," will play Charles. Others in the cast include Nikki Renee Daniels, Harrison White and Tasha Taylor.

"Unchain My Heart" uses the singer's last live recording session to tell his story through his music.

-- Karen Wada

Photo: Brandon Victor Dixon and Nikki Renee Daniels in the 2007 Pasadena Playhouse production of "Ray Charles Live! A New Musical." Credit: Gary Friedman / Los Angeles Times


Ray Charles musical heading to Broadway after run at Pasadena Playhouse

Charles McNulty's review of "Ray Charles Live!" from 2007

Theater review: 'Buddy: The Buddy Holly Story' at La Mirada Theatre

April 26, 2010 | 12:22 pm

One thing to be said about the jukebox musical "Buddy" is that it tends to understand that the audience came through the doors to hear Buddy Holly's music, not scripted blather. So even though it tries our patience with a flabby, truncated retelling of Holly's life story, it knows enough to shut up at the ends of both acts and give way to re-creations of key concerts in Holly's career.

Seen many times locally, the musical, which took off in London in 1989, further benefits from the terrific talent assembled on stage and behind the scenes for its presentation in the McCoy Rigby Entertainment series at La Mirada Theatre. When the show culminates in the Feb. 2, 1959, concert that Holly, Ritchie Valens and the Big Bopper performed before their fatal plane ride, the cast melds into a hard-charging rock 'n' roll band for a display of multiple talents that makes the multitasking casts of John Doyle's Sondheim musicals seem like slackers.

The show charts the three years that took Holly to his heights of fame and influence before his death at age 22. Except for unavoidable lags in the jokey, thinly dramatized scripted scenes, director Glenn Casale and musical director Darryl Archibald keep the show and its 28 songs ripping along on a set framed by sepia-toned publicity photos of the era's musicians and actors (design by John Iacovelli), beneath pulsing concert lighting (by Steven Young).  

Singer-guitarist Brandon Albright delivers a fair approximation of Holly's hiccuping vocals. The songs -- which, of course, include "Peggy Sue," "Oh, Boy!" and "Rave On" -- may not always exactly re-create the recordings we know so well, but the music is approached with respect and played for all-out fun. So much so that Omar D. Brancato, playing a tall, upright bass, very nearly steals the show every time he spins his instrument like a top or leans it onto its side and steps into its notch for his next attack on its strings. The songs transport us back to when music truly rock 'n' rolled, its rhythms dipping and swaying. Give in and roll right along.

-- Daryl H. Miller

"Buddy: The Buddy Holly Story," La Mirada Theatre for the Performing Arts, 14900 La Mirada Blvd., La Mirada. 7:30 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday, 8 p.m. Friday, 2 and 8 p.m. Saturday, 2 and 7 p.m. Sunday. Ends May 2. $35 to $50. (562) 944-9801 or Running time: 2 hours, 10 minutes.

Musical Theatre West's 2010-11 season offers 'Annie,' 'Cats,' 'Wedding Singer' and a Roger Bean premiere

April 13, 2010 |  6:30 pm

Logo_Full Musical Theatre West will turn back the clock with a 2010-11 lineup that includes three revivals of Broadway musicals and one world premiere from Roger Bean, creator of "The Marvelous Wonderettes" and other nostalgic jukebox shows.

The company, which performs at the Carpenter Performing Arts Center in Long Beach, will begin its 58th season Oct. 29-Nov. 14 with "Annie," the Tony-winning Depression-era tale inspired by the feisty heroine from the comic pages. 

Feb. 11-27, MTW will present another Tony winner, "Cats," Andrew Lloyd Webber's riff on T.S. Eliot's whimsical poems, which opened on Broadway in 1982 and ran for 18 years.

"The Summer of Love," which follows the adventures of a San Francisco flower child, will debut April 1-17. It's the latest offering from Bean, whose credits include "Wonderettes," "The Andrews Brothers" and "Life Could Be a Dream."

The season will end July 8-24, 2011, with "The Wedding Singer," an ode to the '80s based on the Adam Sandler movie about a wedding performer who gets left at the altar on his own big day.

-- Karen Wada

Monster Mash: A Pulitzer surprise; Domingo ready to sing at La Scala; is Banksy in L.A.?

April 13, 2010 |  8:14 am

Domingo --Plot twist: Times theater critic Charles McNulty, chair of the Pulitzer drama jury, says the Pulitzer board was up to its old tricks when it ignored the jury's recommendations and awarded this year's prize to the musical "Next to Normal." (Los Angeles Times)

--Prize piece: Composer Jennifer Higdon has won the Pulitzer for music for her Violin Concerto, a work the board said "combines flowing lyricism with dazzling virtuosity." (Los Angeles Times)

--Happy return: Placido Domingo is in Milan, preparing to sing the lead in Verdi's "Simon Boccanegra" on Friday at La Scala. It will be his first stage performance since the Spanish tenor and L.A. Opera general director underwent colon cancer surgery in early March. (Associated Press)

--Word on the street: Is English guerrilla artist Banksy in town (his movie "Exit Through the Gift Shop" is about to open) and leaving a calling card or two? (Curbed LA)

--Hitting the boards: Kate Walsh, the "Private Practice" star and "Grey's Anatomy" alum, will make her off-Broadway debut in May in Atlantic Theater Co.'s world premiere of Stephen Belber's "Dusk Rings a Bell." (

--Sour notes: Producers of the Broadway hit "Jersey Boys" have filed suit, claiming the touring show "The Boys," which was created by former cast members of the original production, is a "copycat." (Reuters)

--Play ball! Kristin Chenoweth will take a break from previews of "Promises, Promises" on Broadway to sing the national anthem at Tuesday's New York Yankees home opener against the Los Angeles Angels. (Playbill)

--On the block: A trove of Gertrude Stein first editions, letters and papers will be offered for sale in Oxford, England, on April 27. (Yes, her companion Alice B. Toklas' cookbook with that infamous hashish fudge recipe is among the offerings.) (Art Daily)

--On the move: Joseph Rosa, the chief curator of architecture and design at the Art Institute of Chicago, reportedly will take over the directorship of the University of Michigan Museum of Art, one of the nation's major collegiate art museums. (Chicago Tribune)

Also in the L.A. Times: Music critic Mark Swed reviews the Los Angeles Master Chorale's performance of Meredith Monk's "Weave" at Walt Disney Concert Hall; L.A. artist Mark Bradford's first retrospective show won't be seen in L.A.

-- Karen Wada

Photo: Placido Domingo with Anja Harteros in rehearsal for "Simon Boccanegra" at La Scala. Credit: AFP / Getty Images

Theater cast album reviews: 'Next to Normal' and more

August 16, 2009 |  1:00 pm

Shrek We cast album geeks tend to spend a fair amount of time in bad lighting conditions. We're either bathed in the glow of a computer screen as we search the Internet for news of upcoming releases, or we're awash in  fluorescent light as we skulk the aisles of what few record stores remain, seeking signs of our ever-harder-to-find must-haves.

The current search is rewarded by the release of "Next to Normal," winner of this year's Tony for best score. The story follows an otherwise typical American family down the rabbit hole of mental illness -- not an easy place to go. But composer Tom Kitt and lyricist Brian Yorkey make the journey  fascinating. We come out on the other end having learned something about ourselves.

The album is reviewed in Sunday Arts & Books, along with the Broadway cast recordings of the movie adaptations "Shrek" and "9 to 5," the latter of which changed a bit after its tryout at the Ahmanson; the '80s hair-rock assemblage "Rock of Ages," which also started in L.A.; and revivals of the landmark musicals "West Side Story" and "Hair."

"Next to Normal" stands out for a number of reasons, not least: It's an original idea amid all of those adaptations, jukebox piece-togethers and revivals. Geeks rejoice!

-- Daryl H. Miller 

Credit: Decca Broadway

Monster Mash: Broads make ARTnews 200 ranking; more Michael Jackson tributes; opera star DiDonato breaks her leg

July 7, 2009 |  8:30 am


-- Art-world elite: Eli and Edythe Broad are among those who made ARTnews magazine's recently released ranking of the world's top 200 art collectors.

-- Dedication: The London and touring productions of "Thriller -- Live" are scheduled to pay onstage tribute to Michael Jackson today with speeches and a moment of silence.

-- Something fishy: Times art critic Christopher Knight examines OCMA's deaccessioning merry-go-round.

-- Starchitecture: Brad Pitt's Make It Right Foundation has revealed duplex designs by 14 prominent architecture firms, including Gehry Partners, in its ongoing effort to rebuild New Orleans' Lower Ninth Ward.

-- Did she take it literally?: Opera star Joyce DiDonato breaks her leg on opening night of "The Barber of Seville" at London's Royal Opera House. The mezzo-soprano will reprise her role in "Barber" at LA Opera in November.

-- Auction house blues: Sales at London's June auctions of Impressionist and contemporary works of art fell 70% from the same month last year.

-- Caveat emptor: Counterfeits are flooding the Russian avant-garde art market, far outnumbering the quantity of authentic works.

-- Kumar goes to Washington: Actor Kal Penn begins his new job this week as part of the White House's Office of Public Liaison, where he will help the Obama administration connect with arts and entertainment groups as well as the Asian and Pacific Islander communities.

-- Making room: In a controversial move, Boston's Gardner Museum has demolished a carriage house to create space for new buildings designed by Renzo Piano.

-- Back for more: John Malkovich is currently reprising his role as serial killer Jack Unterweger in a touring European stage production. The actor first performed the role in L.A. in May 2008.

-- Best of the '80s: The cast recording of Broadway's "Rock of Ages" hits stores today. The Tony-nominated musical began its life in Hollywood before moving to Las Vegas and eventually to New York.

-- Actresses: Leslie Caron will join Kristin Scott Thomas in a Paris production of Stephen Sondheim's "A Little Night Music," which is set for Feb. 2010.

-- David Ng

Photo: Eli and Edythe Broad. Credit: Dan Steinberg / Associated Press

Monster Mash: Breaking news and headlines

April 13, 2009 |  7:58 am

-- 'Sound of Music' dance-along?: Dance in a train station? Why is this dance in a train station video so popular?

-- Inspiring grins or ire?: A Looney Toons parody of Leonardo Da Vinci's "The Last Supper" stirs controversy in San Diego.

-- Dance show: "Come Fly With Me," Twyla Tharp's new musical featuring the songs of Frank Sinatra to premiere in Atlanta.

-- Dissing the musical?: Has Julie Taymor ("The Lion King," "The Producers") turned her back on musicals -- well, the word anyway?

-- Top honor: Swiss architect Peter Zumthor named 2009 Pritzker Prize winner.

-- Take the poll: Who is your favorite modern artist?

-- White knight: L.A. billionaire Eli Broad steps in to rescue Juilliard program for low-income students in New York.

-- Obituary: Ceramics artist Susan Peterson dies at 83.

 -- Obituary: David W. Scott, founding director of the National Museum of American Arts, dies at 92.

-- Reproduction of a reproduction: Artist's hand-drawn rendering of a newspaper front page isn't the first time it's been done.

-- Lisa Fung


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